Area youth have a blast at this year’s AIAA RocketDay event

ARNOLD AIR FORCE BASE, TENN. -- The second annual RocketDay! Competition for area youth was held June 17 at the Hands-On Science Center (HOSC) in Tullahoma.

The event, sponsored by the Tennessee Section of American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and the Arnold Air Force Base Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Center, featured various contests and activities for families. Youth taking part in the competition ranged from toddlers to high school students.

As part of the event, the Cool-Two Rocket Competition was once again held. This competition invites students from fifth grade through high school to create an elaborate, innovative rocket from a two-liter bottle. Entries included everything from flying pigs to black widow spiders. Some rockets used homemade systems made with PVC with a rubber stopper and bicycle pump while others used materials and equipment obtained from the Arnold AFB STEM Center, which enabled bottle pressures of up to 80 pounds per square inch and launches of greater than 100 feet in the air.

First place was won by a solid traditional design, created by Bradley Escue, which wowed the judges by its high lofting flight with a perfectly stable ballistic trajectory. Zack Sheeley took second place with his elaborate black widow design which had glowing red eyes and spit out red water during its maiden flight. Third place was won by Clay Taylor, with his flying pig, complete with a rounded-snout from which a parachute deployed.

The first and second place winners won drones and the third place winner received a gift certificate for the Hands-On Science Center gift shop.

Dr. Taylor Swanson, member of the AEDC Analysis and Evaluation Branch and volunteer for the event commented that RocketDay! 2017 was enjoyable for both participants and event volunteers.

“Attendance this year was greater than last year and we hope this trend continues,” Swanson said. “One of the two liter rockets was made to look like a pig and another to resemble a spider. At what other event can you see a pig fly?"

Deb Wimberly, director of the HOSC, said it was an honor to host the event.

“Thank you AIAA for hosting the second annual Rocket Day at the Hands-On Science Center,” she said. “It was a beautiful, sunny Saturday, and a great time was had by both kids and adults."

Col. Raymond Briggs, Chief of the AEDC Test Sustainment Division and volunteer for the event added, "The creativity of the Cool-Two entrants was inspiring. It was a lot of fun to talk to the kids on where they gained their inspiration, what gave them trouble, and how they thought their rockets performed. Good event."

Dr. Joe Sheeley, AEDC technology engineer and RocketDay! event organizer, said even more activities are planned for the 2018 competition.

"Next year we're planning to expand the competitions at the event,” he said. “We'll have a contest called ‘recycled rockets’ where competitors build static models of existing or whimsical spacecraft using things like cans, bottles and popsicle sticks. We will also expand into drones, adding perhaps a drone race and a yet-to-be-defined competition called ‘drone wars,’ in which teams will compete with multiple drones to move objects around in some sort of game area."

Sheely also thanked Jere Matty, Arnold AFB STEM director, as well as the Tennessee Section of AIAA members for their continued support of the event.