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Fairmont STEM Teams Selected To Fifth Straight National Rocketry Competition

Three young women stand facing the camera wearing coats and scarves. Another person is in the background. There are trees without leaves in the distance against a cloudy sky.
East Fairmont Middle School students (L-R) Carson Grace; Kendall Grace; Savannah Corder pose with their custom-built rocket at a launch.
Barbara Pill

Updated on Friday, April 28, 2023 at 5:17 p.m.

Three STEM teams in Fairmont have been selected to attend the nationwide American Rocketry Challenge for the fifth time in as many seasons.

Two teams from East Fairmont Middle School, alongside East Fairmont STEM, a group of high school students, are among the 100 teams selected. The teams will build and launch model rockets that carry an egg to an altitude of 850 feet and return safely as part of the competition. At its peak, the designed rocket will section off into two parts – one with the egg, and one with the rocket’s motor – and both parts must land safely with their own parachutes.

“At the competition the night before, they’ll flip a coin,” middle school team member Carson Grace said. “And that determines the height that the rockets have to go, so we have to have two different rockets ready in case for whatever height they are for whatever height they have to go.”

East Fairmont Middle School science teacher and team sponsor Barbara Pill said there’s a selection process to join the school’s STEM club – meaning it’s consistently full of dedicated students.

“They’re all goal oriented,” Pill said. “Of course, anytime you have teams, there’s not going to always be agreement on everything. But they work through and we use simulation software and make our rockets in the simulator meet the parameters that we want before we ever start building the actual rockets.”

Pill said staying calm under stress and having a clear vision of each team member’s role is what will earn them a high ranking. 

“These are middle school kids, most of these students there will be high school age,” Pill said. “And these are some of our younger students. And it’s a lot of pressure.”

But for some students, the competition will be a return to one they’ve attended in years prior, and it’s a chance for some of them to build on previous showings.

“This year, I think we’re hoping to not get disqualified for the egg, we built our rocket a little differently so it’s more aerodynamic this year,” team captain Maddy Armentrout said. “I’ve always enjoyed hands-on learning. But this has been my favorite so far, because I enjoy engineering.”

If one of the teams wins out, they would earn a $100,000 cash prize and a spot in the International Rocketry Challenge in Paris this summer.

The top 25 teams will also be invited to a student workshop sponsored by NASA.

Editor’s note: This story was updated to clarify the school affiliation of the teams attending. East Fairmont STEM is a team of high schoolers not officially affiliated with East Fairmont High School.