LaRue students head to D.C. for rocket competition

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By Kelly Cantrall

Students at LaRue County High School hope to launch themselves into first place at an upcoming national competition.


The students compete May 12 in the national finals of the Team America Rocketry Challenge near Washington, D.C. The students have built rockets and qualified for the finals competition and are readying themselves for next weekend’s final launches.

Junior Ryan Hornback found the competition online before Christmas and brought the idea to physics teacher Rex Hanson and his classmates.

Senior Jon Firquin said the group always looked for ways to enrich their classes and they latched onto this idea.

“It’s a rocket. Who doesn’t want to build a rocket?” he said.

The group downloaded software to assist them in designing a rocket, and set about ordering materials to make it. The software allowed them to test the design before construction. The group also built a small version as a test model before starting on a full-sized one.

After a few practice launches, they were ready for qualification launches, which had to be observed by a mentor from the TARC program.

To qualify, the group had to launch a rocket carrying two eggs 800 feet into the air and land it using a parachute. The launch had to last between 43 and 47 seconds and the eggs had to stay intact. The team must repeat the challenge in the finals.

Because this is the first year any of the team members participated, they were told not to expect to qualify for finals. It came as a surprise when they did.

“It was pretty crazy,” Hornback said.

The team qualified in the top 100 out of a total of 678 entrants across the country.

At the finals, each team has one launch and the top 24 receive a second launch. The top 20 teams share $60,000 in prizes and scholarships. The LaRue team also will take part in a side competition that requires them to build a rocket from supplied parts in 70 minutes or less.

Hornback and junior Caleb Canter said they are confident about their chances in the competition.

“Our rocket is really consistent,” Canter said.

Firquin said they didn’t expect to qualify.

“We have nothing to lose, so we’re going to win it,” he said.

Other team members are seniors Shan Lin, Tyler Higginson, Nathaniel Schaefer and Zachary Lee and juniors Brandon Henning and Tyler Skaggs. Senior Nick Paden helped the group raise money for the competition.

Kelly Cantrall can be reached at (270) 505-1747.