Eleven-year-old Jasmine Tbaba loves to tell her parents about the rocket science she works on at school.
“It feels great,” the sixth-grader said. “It’s really amazing to get such an experience.”
Tbaba and her classmates at The Clariden School in Southlake, an independent K-12 school, have beaten 700 entries to advance to the national Team America Rocketry Challenge next month in Washington D.C.
Since late February, middle- and high-school students have designed, built and launched rockets while learning about such things as aerodynamics, physics and engineering.
In May, the team will compete against 100 of the nation’s top entries and will have one launch each for their middle school and high school rockets. The rockets must hit an altitude of 800 feet and fall in two parts within 46-48 seconds. On top of that, the rockets will carry a payload of an egg that must be preserved.
This is the school’s first time to reach the national competition. The school follows a project-based approach to teaching, where students apply what they learn directly to projects.
Technology teacher Samson Lepcha said he had the competition in mind when he began tasking students with creating rockets.
“I’ve found that it drives them,” he said. “That challenges them and also it’s a confirmation, ‘did you learn something,’ ‘can you do it,’ ‘can you prove to the world, to others that you have accomplished something,’ ”
The students first built model rockets to understand how they work. Then they used software to design the rockets before building them by hand.
Sophomore Cian Hillis, 16, said this was her first time working with rockets.
“I never really thought I’d be able to build a rocket,” she said. “That, for me, is amazing and incredible.”
Tbaba specialized on the rocket’s motor and is responsible for making sure the vital part works for every launch. She said before she started the project, she did not think she would become so knowledgeable.
“I thought I was going to be in the corner having people tell me what to do,” she said. “Now I know everything.”
If the team does well enough in nationals, it has a chance to participate in the international competition in Paris, France.
The road to the national competition hasn’t been easy, though. The students have traveled to Frisco 10 times this season to launch their rockets. School staff said Southlake is too close to the airport to launch.
Midway through their work, one of the rockets was completely destroyed and the students had to decide if they wanted to stop then or build a new rocket on an accelerated time line.
“It gave us all qualities of perseverance and problem solving,” Tbaba said.
Dustin L. Dangli, 817-390-7770