Future rocket scientists shoot for the stars at annual competition

ARNOLD AIR FORCE BASE, TENN. -- Students 10-18 years old from the southern middle Tennessee region participated in the local Reach for the Stars rocket launching competition May 13 at University of Tennessee Space Institute.

The event, hosted by UTSI and organized with help from members of the Tennessee Section of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Arnold Air Force Base Science, Engineering, Mathematics and Technology (STEM) program coordinator Jere Matty, is part of an educational outreach program that gives young students the opportunity to build and launch their own rocket. This year’s competition was led by Jim Burns with the AEDC Space and Missiles Branch.

The winner of the competition is the student who lands his or her rocket closest to the target, which is marked 30 feet downrange from the launch pad. Out of the 15 students that competed, this year’s winner was Jackson Parrish, age 11 of Robert E. Lee Elementary School in Tullahoma.

Reach for the Stars is also a nationally-recognized competition co-founded in 2005 by former science teachers Jack and Kathy Colpas. Their goal is to inspire students to take an interest in STEM and also honor the first teacher in space, Christa McAuliffe, of the NASA Space Shuttle Challenger.

Results of the local Reach for the Stars competition determine national winners in that five of the closest of all entries submitted to the competition headquarters by deadline get invited to the National Winner’s Celebration. Last year’s local winner Samuel Mansfield was invited to attend the celebration at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.