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: www.RocketCompetition.com .