Penn Manor wins TARC

Below is the text of a local article on the winning TARC team. we hope this will be the first of many, the kids have a press conference scheduled for Tuesday afternoon and are planning to meet the Governor of Pennsylvania, fast Eddie Rendell, later this week. The direct link is below however this will scroll off in a day or two

Dale Greene SPAAR 503

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Rocketing to top spot By Jane Holahan Lancaster New Era

Published: May 24, 2004 3:03 PM EST

LANCASTER COUNTY, PA - The odds were astronomical, but three ninth graders from Penn Manor High School earned a perfect score and first place at the second annual Team America Rocketry Challenge, held Saturday in Virginia. It's the world's largest model rocket contest and more than

7,000 students from across the country vied for the chance to place in the top 100 teams, which were in Saturday's competition.

The rocket launched by Cam Aument, Benjamin Raush and Bob O'Connor reached the precise altitude the competition called for -- 1,250 feet -- and brought its payload of two raw eggs down to earth unharmed.

The feat earned the trio a prize of $8,000.

"We knew it would launch and work fine, but we never thought it would be exactly on the mark,'' says Raush.

"It launched straight, so it looked good,'' says Aument. "When I saw Ben pumping his fist, I knew we did pretty well.'' The Penn Manor School District sent two other teams to the national competition -- held at The Plains, Va., -- and the middle school team placed seventh, coming within 20 feet of the altitude goal.

"We were in the lead all morning,'' says Steph Land, a seventh grader at Manor Middle School, adding with a laugh, "Then the veterans came along and we saw our numbers drop.'' But considering they were competing against more than 600 other students from across the country, seventh place is out of this world.

In addition to Land, the middle school team comprised Jake Frey, Kate McClintock, Stephen Thomsen, Marshall Breneman and Colby McMullen.

Another high school team, whose members were Greg Land, Cory McClintock and Danielle Tooth, would have placed third, except their payload was damaged.

"They broke one of the eggs when they put the nose-cone on and they didn't catch it before the launch,'' says Chris Land, who served as the parental adviser for all three teams. "They were only eight feet off the mark.'' The competition called for the students to design a rocket on a computer, build it, test it and make changes where necessary.

The rockets had to weigh less than 3.3 pounds and have two stages. The motors were purchased and the students had to determine what sizes would best fit their rockets. It was a decision that was changing all the time.

"We were trying to solve different kinds of problems and we really had to work as a team,'' says Thomsen.

Teamwork was essential for everyone, but it was especially important to the first place team, according to Joe Castronova, who teaches seventh grade science at Manor Middle School. He was the team adviser for both the middle school team and the first place team.

"They are incredible kids,'' he says. "What's neat about these three is that each one of them had real strengths in specific areas.

"Ben was the computer guy, designing the rocket on the computer. He was the team leader in many ways. Bob is the hands-on kid. He's incredible; he understand the mechanics of things,'' Castronova said.

"And Cam is very much the administrator, the kind of guy who keeps things organized. He's very creative. Each one of them had their own strengths and it showed.'' Everyone agrees that they would never have made it to the competition without Chris Land.

"We'd still be in Mr. C's class arguing about design,'' says Steph Land.

Chris Land says the students worked together, helping each other out. He says there is a lot of camaraderie in rocketry.

"When everything works, everyone is happy, it doesn't matter whose team it is,'' says Land. "And when it doesn't work, everyone is still happy.

"Everyone was a winner. Just getting to the competition, being selected from all those kids in the country, it made you a winner. All the kids worked together in my shop -- they'd help each other out.'' There were lots of heated discussions in the past few months about what choices to make, and team members were still talking about their choices this morning.

But on Saturday, with temperatures in the high 80s and the heat index at 105, it was too hot to argue.

"It was a long day,'' Land says. "The middle school team launched in the morning and the high school teams in the afternoon.'' The teams arrived at the launch site at about 6 a.m. and the awards were given out at about 5 p.m.

"These kids committed hundreds of hours to this project,'' says Penn Manor High School Principal Jan Mindish. "It consumed them. I'm so impressed with them.'' The top 10 teams shared $60,000 in prizes. The first place team will split $8,000 and the seventh place team will share $3,000.

Raush says he's going to use his winnings to buy a new computer.

"I want to work for Pixar,'' he says.

"It might be neat to work for Boeing or something like that,'' says O'Connor, while Aument is leaving his options open. He's only in ninth grade, after all.

One option they can think about is writing a proposal to NASA for a more advanced rocket that would reach an altitude of one mile. The top 25 teams can enter that competition.

"The team that won last year wrote a 41-page proposal,'' says Land. "I'm not sure everyone wants to give up their entire summer -- and that's probably what it would take.''

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