One of the Liberty Middle School Rocket Teams recently traveled from Madison to Virginia to compete in the annual Team America Rocket Challenge.
The team of seventh and eighth graders, known as Team Bazinga, competed against more than 100 teams in the national challenge, including high school teams, and brought home a top five finish.
The team began work on its rocket for the challenge at the very start of the school year. For the competition, the team had to build a rocket that would fly 800 feet into the air with a 43 to 47 second travel time, weigh less than 650 grams and carry two eggs without breaking them.
"We had a lot of problems because this was our first year," said eighth grader Kyle Sander. "We didn't know really how to build a rocket, so we had to ask the other team a lot of questions and figure out how to build it."
Team Bazinga designed the rocket before beginning to construct it.
"Well first we had to do the computer simulations and we basically built the rocket on the computer," said eighth grader Ethan Canup, "and that told us how high it was going to go and so we bought the parts from what it told us we needed that we had designed on the rocket."
Team Bazinga qualified for the national competition, which was held last weekend, and was one of just two teams to represent the state of Alabama.
Thanks to its fifth-place finish in Virginia, the team earned $4,500 in prize money, as well as a trophy and an invitation to the Student Launch Initiative, a high-powered rocket competition.
"We were all really happy and excited that we could place fifth in our first year," said Sander.
"It hadn't really hit me yet," said Canup, "but later on I was like, wow we scored fifth in the nation out of like 800 teams."
"Fifth place is quite an accomplishment," said coach Nate Pahman. "They were second amongst all middle schools and to compete that way against high schoolers, I was very proud of them. They were very professional out on the field. And they made great decisions and worked together as a team."
Liberty Middle School also has two robotics teams. They both finished in the top ten of national competitions this year, as well.