Rocketry teams advance to finals once again

PRESIDIO – The legacy continues as Presidio Rocketry advances to nationals this weekend in Virginia. The impressive feat has been accomplished every year since the program started in 2008. This year 800 teams competed and only 100 qualified for the championship.

Two high school teams will be representing Presidio at the Team America Rocketry Challenge (TARC) on May 12th alongside rocketry and physics teacher Belinda Dolino. A total of 14 juniors and seniors are making the trip to The Plains, VA outside Washington, D.C.

I met with Mrs. Dolino and some of the students to hear about the competition and what it takes to build a winning rocket. Each year the rules of the challenge are different and this time they had to design a rocket that can carry two raw eggs to an altitude of 800 feet and return the eggs to Earth safely within 41 to 43 seconds.

Students begin by building their rockets using cardboard tubes, prefabricated motors and 3D-printing technology. By means of simulation software and trial and error, they calculate the proper length, weight and other measurements. Their teacher, Mrs. Dolino, is not allowed to help or offer suggestions; older students mentor the new ones.

“They have to be creative because I have nothing to do with this, it’s all them,” said Dolino. “All I can do is I can guide them.” Students work in teams during and after school to perfect their rockets. They prepare for competition by holding practice launches in a field behind the high school. Practicing helps them understand how to account for different factors, especially changes in weather. According to junior Leonardo Uribe, humidity, wind and temperature can all affect the rocket’s performance.

Teams have to pass a series of qualifying rounds to advance to finals. Each time they receive scores based on a point system that rewards for precision – the score closest to zero wins. On average the best teams had scores between 11 and 13, what Mrs. Dolino referred to as “very hard to get.”

Senior Ivye Dolino attributes their success to working together. “I think teamwork really plays a big part of it, it’s not just within a team, it’s within the whole class. We share ideas, we learn from our mistakes, and we learn from each other.”

Mrs. Dolino is confident that her students will do well at competition. The day before they’ll get to display their rockets at Rockets on the Hill, a reception held on Capitol Hill where they’ll have the opportunity to talk to congressmen about their projects. Dolino said Presidio is very well known there. The school made a name for itself when former rocketry teacher Shella Condino led the first team to finals. “Presidio made a name already,” said Dolino, “It’s really wonderful to be recognized.”

Students will be competing against teams from 28 other states and the District of Columbia for a total of $100,000 in cash and scholarships. The number one team will represent the United States at the Farnborough Air Show in London this summer.

Team Blue Comet will be represented by Maria Vega, senior; Ivye Dolino, senior; Christine Calma, senior; Yasmine Barron, senior; Milo Garcia, junior; Carissa Madrid, junior; Oscar Mireles, junior; and Maria Anaya, junior.

The Olympians’ team is made up of Leonardo Uribe, junior; Cole Galliete, junior; Omar Udave, junior; Alejandrina Elms, junior; Jose Gabaldon, junior; and Tamara Carrasco, senior.