Category Archives: Contests and Games

2018 Reach for the Stars ~ National Rocket Competition

A message from Jack Colpas co-director of the RFTS Competition:

Reach for the Stars ~ National Rocket Competition

Through a NASA grant the Florida Space Grant Consortium sponsored 100 kids in the Reach for the Stars ~ National Rocket Competition. Building and launching a solid-fuel powered rocket is a fantastic way to turn kids on to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) subjects.

Five national winners will be determined by local competitions. They will celebrate at Space Camp / US Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama – under an October Sky.

NASA and the Florida Space Grant Consortium are Helping Kids Reach for the Stars

Everyone agrees – we need to get more kids interested in STEM careers. To do that we need to get them excited about STEM subjects. Building and launching a solid-fuel powered rocket is a fantastic way to turn kids on to the STEM subjects. Nothing lends itself to Science, Technology, Engineering and Math like rocketry. After all – this is Rocket Science!

To meet that need the Florida Space Grant Consortium, under the direction of Dr. Jaydeep Mukherjee, arranged for a NASA grant that funded 100 students from across Florida. Each of the students, from four different schools, received a rocket kit to buid and launch, supplies for two launches, an achievement certificate and registration in the national competition. The schools received a Launch Set and certificate of involvement.

“To keep the playing field even – we are hoping to get similar grants in the other 49 states. This is, after all, a national competition.” says RFTS co-director Jack Colpas.

The Florida schools helped by the grant were identified by the economic need of its students. Thus giving the opportunity to kids who might not have had the chance to compete. The Imagine School, West Melbourne, STEAM Director, Brendan Williams / Bagdad Elementary School, Santa Rosa – Science Teacher, Tammy Dillard / Shaw Elementary, Tampa – SPARK teacher, Angela Williams / King Middle School, Milton – Science Teacher, Cathy Thompson; have a majority of their students on Free or Reduced Lunch Programs.

The teachers involved in the grant, rave about the opportunities it provides for their students.

Brendan Williams, “….most of my students could not afford to use Estes rockets. This grant will give them a chance to take their rocketry design and love of STEM to the next level. Giving these students opportunities like this opens their eyes to the possibilities for their lives that might then open doors for them as they grow up.”

Tammy Dillard, “I would like to be able to offer them more exposure to things that they would not normally have. Being able to construct a rocket and actually fly it! Without this grant, they would never have the chance. This opportunity will enable them to try and try again something wonderful. What they discover through this experience will be monumental.”

Cathy Thompson, “I am very excited to help the team compete with the rockets. These kids are very interested in flight and science. Most do not get these opportunities outside of school.”

Angela Williams, “This activity would expose them to STEM activities at a level they have never seen. I’m certain it would spark their interest to continue in other STEM activities and subjects in the future. I would also like to encourage the girls to be involved in this science building activity.”

An indication of the grant’s success can be seen in competitor Jordyn Presley from Bagdad Elementary School. She did so well that she won the local event at her school – and was one of the top five entries nationwide. As a national winner she will travel to Space Camp in October to celebrate with the other national winners.

Contestants – ages 10 to 18 – compete at an event held at their own location. It is fun, affordable (no travel expense or hassle) & easy to run (step-by-step video covers rocket construction and launch). After two launches and parachute landings, the closest average distance to a target wins the local event. Local winner’s results are sent to the national headquarters to determine the five national winners.

The five national winners in the Reach for the Stars ~ National Rocket Competition will be invited to celebrate in grand fashion at  Space Camp / US Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama under an ‘October Sky’. There they will be presented a Space Shuttle Challenger commemorative medal with certificate signed by Astronaut Jon McBride. Captain McBride piloted the Challenger on her early missions.

With their families, the winners they will continue their celebration. – experiencing Astronaut training simulators, seeing amazing space memorabilia, visiting Shuttle Park and standing under the massive Saturn V rocket. They get to launch their rockets from Homer Hickam Field – named after NASA engineer and author of the memoir, Rocket Boys aka October Sky.

Competition co-director, Kathy Colpas says,

“We promise the national winners – memories to last a lifetime and bragging rights for generations to come. Launching their rockets from a historical location and receiving a medal presented by an Astronaut allows us to fulfill our promise.”

The Competition honors the memory of Christa McAuliffe, 1st Teacher-in-Space. Everyone involved in the Competition receives a certificate that bears Christa’s likeness and her quote, “Push yourself as far as you can. Reach for the stars!” The background of the certificates is the artwork of Astronaut & Moonwalker, Alan Bean.

Ten Astronauts recommend the RFTS Competition. Several have presented medals to the national winners. Two, US Senator Bill Nelson and Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana, encourage the kids in video clips prepared specially for the competitors.

Competitions are already being held across the country. Local competitions can be held anytime throughout the year. Your kids can’t win it – if they’re not in it!

For photos and more details about the competition go to: .

Winning projects selected in Guardians of the Galaxy Space Station Challenge contest

Winners have been selected in the Guardians of the Galaxy Space Station Challenge student competition mentioned here back in January:

Guardians of the Galaxy Space Station Challenge Winning Projects Selected 

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FL. (May 22, 2018) – After a robust response from students around the country, the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) and Marvel Entertainment today announced two winning concepts from the recent Guardians of the Galaxy Space Station Challenge. The challenge was an opportunity for American students ages 13-18 to submit microgravity flight experiment concepts that could be conducted on the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory. The contest focused on Rocket and Groot, characters from the Guardians of the Galaxy comic book franchise. Students were encouraged to develop innovative concepts to be tested in space based on the attributes of these Super Heroes. The two selected flight concepts will become official ISS National Lab investigations, intending to launch to the space station in 2018.

Students with an interest in technology and engineering were encouraged to submit flight concepts through Team Rocket—a Super Hero with strong ties to technological innovation and engineering. Students interested in fundamental biological concepts were encouraged to submit flight proposals under Team Groot—a member of the Guardians of the Galaxy who is the embodiment of genetics and plant biology.

Below is an overview on the two research concepts selected through the challenge.

Team Groot:
Aeroponic Farming in Microgravity
Project Lead: Sarina Kopf
Golden, CO

This experiment seeks to explore an alternative method for watering plants in the absence of gravity. Aeroponic farming utilizes a misting device to deliver water to the plant roots and an air pump to blow excess water off of the roots. In space, aeroponic farming has advantages over other methods of watering plants that are gravity dependent. The project aims to test mister behavior in microgravity. Specifically, how the water behaves immediately after it is ejected from the head of the nozzle, and how moving air affects the water on the roots in the absence of gravity. Too much water is just as bad for plants as too little water, and root rot from over watering can be a problem when growing plants in space. Results from this experiment may have profound implications for both the future of spaceflight and for life on Earth by enabling humans to grow fruits and vegetables in microgravity and eliminate a major obstacle for long-term spaceflight.

Hardware Partner: Space Tango

Team Rocket:
Staying Healthy in Space
Project Lead: Adia Bulawa
Greeneville, TN

Staying healthy in space is extremely important. A broken tooth or a lost filling is painful on Earth, but in space it can be detrimental to an astronaut’s health. This experiment intends to analyze the effectiveness in microgravity of a dental glue that is activated by UV light. The team proposes to treat simulated, broken teeth with the dental glue, expose them to UV light, and observe them onboard the space station. Soldering in microgravity results in weaker bonds due to air bubbles, and the team wonders whether the same will happen with UV activated glue.

Hardware Partner: DreamUp (with hardware integration partner NanoRacks, LLC)

“This challenge created an incredible response from young researchers around our country, which is a testament to the reach and excitement of collaborating with an entity like Marvel Entertainment,” said CASIS Director of Operations and Education Initiatives, Ken Shields. “The two selected investigations provide diverse, fun, and important research concepts, and we thank our partners at Marvel for bringing further awareness to research opportunities available through the International Space Station.”

The winning students will work alongside partners DreamUp (with team member NanoRacks, LLC) and Space Tango, Inc. to help transform their ideas into research questions to be tested on the space station. In the coming months, students will work with these commercial partners and be exposed to space station facilities, hardware development, and the engineering required to ensure successful projects on the orbiting laboratory.

The Guardians of the Galaxy Space Station Challenge is a featured program of Space Station Explorers, a CASIS-led collaborative science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) consortium of partners who are committed to developing, promoting, and delivering ISS National Lab-themed educational curriculum, products, and outreach to student explorers. To learn more about Space Station Explorers’ broad range of student opportunities, please visit

To learn more about the ISS U.S. National Laboratory, please visit:

About CASIS: The Center for Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) is the nonprofit organization selected to manage the ISS National Laboratory, with a focus on enabling a new era of space research to improve life on Earth. In this innovative role, CASIS promotes and brokers a diverse range of research in life sciences, physical sciences, remote sensing, technology development, and education.

Since 2011, the ISS National Lab portfolio has included hundreds of novel research projects spanning multiple scientific disciplines, all with the intention of benefitting life on Earth. Working together with NASA, CASIS aims to advance the nation’s leadership in commercial space, pursue groundbreaking science not possible on Earth, and leverage the space station to inspire the next generation.

About the ISS National Laboratory: In 2005, Congress designated the U.S. portion of the International Space Station as the nation’s newest national laboratory to maximize its use for improving life on Earth, promoting collaboration among diverse users, and advancing STEM education. This unique laboratory environment is available for use by other U.S. government agencies and by academic and private institutions, providing access to a permanent microgravity setting, a vantage point in low Earth orbit, and varied environments of space.

About Marvel Entertainment: Marvel, a wholly-owned subsidiary of The Walt Disney Company, is one of the world’s most prominent character-based entertainment companies, built on a proven library of more than 8,000 characters featured in a variety of media over seventy-five years.  Marvel utilizes its character franchises in entertainment, licensing and publishing. For more information visit © 2018 MARVEL

Participate in “Train Like a Martian Challenge” sponsored by Mars Generation

The Mars Generation is sponsoring a competition and activities event for students and educators called Train Like A Martian Challenge:

Join Us For Our 3rd Annual #TrainLikeAMartian Challenge
May 14-18, 2018

Sign up now and join us for our third annual #TrainLikeAMartian event! We expect that the event will be a blast! Anyone can join including individuals, students, teachersschools, sports teams, community organizations and anyone who wants to get involved. For educator resources to plan for the event please click here.

What is the #TrainLikeAMartian challenge? The #TrainLikeAMartian Challenge is a week of fun activities that brings awareness to the importance of science, technology, engineering, arts, and math (STEAM) education, space exploration, and physical fitness to students and adults around the world! This is a chance to have fun, spread an important message, and have a opportunity to win some cool space and STEM prizes May 14-18, 2018!

Daily prizes include: TMG magnets, TMG logo patches, TMG stickers, Astronaut Abby patches, TMG coloring books and more! We will hold multiple random drawings of all entries each day of the event May 14-May 18, 2018.

Grand prizes include: 

Arckit A180 The Architectural Model Design Tool (4 lucky winners) $170.00 Value: The Arckit 180 provides everything you need to design and build your own impressive model structures up to 180 sq.m (1,937 sq.ft) to scale, including adhesive sheets to add realistic building finishes. There are no set instructions – just follow your imagination!

Lottie Doll Supreme Play Package (1 lucky winner): 1 Star Gazer doll,1 Muddy Puddles doll, and 1 Wildlife Photography doll, 1 Doll Treehouse, and 1 Astro Adventure Suit.

1 Lottie Doll of Winner’s Choice plus 1 Astro Adventure Suit (3 lucky winners) 

Grand prize drawing will be after the event. Winners will be chosen by random drawing of all entries throughout the event.

Constellation Community Challenge: Our event sponsors:  United Launch Services (ULA)Lottie DollsArckitIndulge SweetsAerojet Rocketdyne and have joined forces to offer a $10,000 matching challenge grant to our community. Please help us earn this $10,000 challenge grant by becoming part of our constellation community by donating today! Every donation up to $10,000 is matched 100%! Donate now here!

All donations through May 18, 2018 will be doubled up to $10,000! Click here for details.

This means we have the potential to raise $20,000 for The Mars Generation programs including sending students who lack financial resources to Space Camp! Donating is not required to participate in the challenge, but for every $25 donated you will receive on entry into the daily and grand prize drawings. Click here to donate.

Want to earn special rewards? Become a fundraiser for The Mars Generation Train Like A Martian challenge for a chance to earn exclusive rewards. Scroll to the bottom fo the page for all fundraising rewards. Fundraising is not required to participate in the challenge.


Continue to the Train Like A Martian Challenge website for more details about the competition including how to enter…

See also Train Like A Martian Challenge For Classrooms and Schools.

The Breakthrough Junior Challenge offers $250,000 prize for a student with a great science or math idea

The Breakthrough Junior Challenge is

an annual global competition for students to inspire creative thinking about science. Students ages 13 to 18 from countries across the globe are invited to create and submit original videos (3 minutes in length maximum) that bring to life a concept or theory in the life sciences, physics or mathematics. The submissions are judged on the student’s ability to communicate complex scientific ideas in engaging, illuminating, and imaginative ways. The Challenge is organized by the Breakthrough Prize Foundation.

If your video is selected as the winner, you will receive a $250,000 college scholarship, $50,000 prize for your teacher, and $100,000 for your school’s laboratory facilities. In addition, a get a free trip for you and a parent or guardian to receive your award at the live televised Breakthrough Prize Ceremony in November of 2018 (date to be announced).

Here is a video about the competition:

The competition began on April 1, 2018 and will end on July 1, 2018 at 11:59 pm PDT. This video describes the registration process:

Check the Breakthrough Junior Challenge website and FAQ for further details.

$100k in prizes for student rocket contest sponsored by Mars Society & FAR

The Friends of Amateur Rocketry (FAR) and the Mars Society are sponsoring a contest for liquid-fueled bi-propellant powered rockets built by college student teams:

FAR/Mars Society Launch Contest
Student Rocketry Teams Compete for FAR-MARS Prize

MOJAVE, CA – Student-built rockets will streak into the stratosphere in Spring, 2018 as college and university engineering teams from around the world compete for $100,000 in prizes in a contest sponsored jointly by the Mars Society, headquartered in Denver, CO and the California-based Friends of Amateur Rocketry (FAR), officers announced today.

The FAR-MARS Prize will grant $50,000 to the team whose bi-propellant liquid-fueled rocket comes closest to reaching 45,000 feet (13,716 meters). A second $50,000 prize will go to the team that comes closest to hitting that same altitude with a rocket-powered by liquid-methane and liquid-oxygen, announced Robert Zubrin, president of the Mars Society, and Mark Holthaus, director and treasurer of FAR.

“If one team can achieve both goals with the same rocket, they’ll win both prizes totaling $100,000,” Holthaus said.

The contest launch window will commence Saturday, May 5, 2018, the 57th anniversary of the launch of Alan Shepard, America’s first man in space, and continue through Sunday, May 13, according to Holthaus and Zubrin. The goal of being the closest to 45,000 feet, rather than simply reaching the highest altitude, was chosen so teams would have to demonstrate the precise control required to create reusable launch vehicles, Holthaus said.

“We see this as a logical follow-on to the Orteig Prize of the 1920’s that sparked aviation, and the X Prize of the 2000’s that jump-started commercial spaceflight,” said Zubrin, founder of the Mars Society and author of the book The Case For Mars, which proposed the Mars Direct manned missions that radically changed ideas about the feasibility of interplanetary space travel in the 1990’s. “We’re looking to get college and university students fired up about rocketry, which is the key to space travel and making humanity a multi-planetary species.”

Funds for the prize have been provided by an anonymous donor whose goal is to advance Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education in general and human spaceflight specifically, Holthaus and Zubrin said.

The $50,000 for each part of the prize will be presented to the college or university sponsoring the winning team, to be used for scholarships for students in the STEM fields related to rocketry.

Teams will have about 15 months to design, build, and test their rockets before gathering at the FAR rocket launch complex called FAR Site, located North of Edwards Air Force Base, on May 5, 2018.

 “Each competing rocket must loft a 2.2 pound (one-kilogram) payload, containing an altitude tracking device, to the target altitude,” Holthaus said. “The payload will be supplied by FAR, rockets must be recovered by parachute, and these rockets are required to clear 30,000 feet (9,144 meters) as a minimum to qualify.”

The competition will continue over two weekends (May 5-6 and 12-13) if needed, Holthaus noted.

FAR Site is equipped with static engine test stands and rocket launch rails so competing teams can try out their engines and rockets and tweak their performance pre-competition, Holthaus added.

Competing teams must be composed of college or university students, with at least one faculty adviser providing guidance, Holthaus said. Teams from the United States and all other nations are encouraged to enter and compete; two or more institutions can combine students, faculty, and resources for a single entry.

“We see the ability to design, build, and test bi-propellant liquid-fueled rockets as a key career skill in the coming decades, with a host of new, innovative rocket companies such as SpaceX, Blue Origin and Orbital ATK taking spaceflight in entirely new directions,” Zubrin said. “Using methane as a fuel is a critical component for missions to the planet Mars, as it is easy to create liquid-methane out of the resources already available on that world.”

Details on how to enter the contest and the exact rules for the competition will be posted on the Mars Society and FAR websites.

The Mars Society is the world’s largest and most influential space advocacy organization dedicated to the human exploration and settlement of the planet Mars. Established by Dr. Robert Zubrin and others in 1998, the group works to educate the public, the media and government on the benefits of exploring Mars and creating a permanent human presence on the Red Planet.

Friends of Amateur Rocketry, formed in 2003 by amateur rocketry enthusiasts, whose mission is to educate the public in STEM fields through the use of amateur rocketry; and to foster rocket technology by supporting individuals, hobbyists, student groups, businesses, and other like-minded non-profit entities. Both The Mars Society and Friends of Amateur Rocketry are 501(c)(3) non-profit organizations.

Author: David S. Michaels