ARL Helps Rockets Fly

August 31, 2009

The U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL) supported 100 teams of budding young rocket engineers by providing real-time weather data during the Team America Rocketry Challenge 2009 held in Virginia.

The nation's top young model rocket hobbyists competed at the annual event using math, science and physics to shoot a rocket in the air up to a certain height and have it land without breaking its load of a fragile, raw egg.

Precise calculations were the key to success, and ARL gave the competitors the temperature, pressure, relative humidity, wind speed and direction of the environment to optimize their flight patterns.

"I love doing this event," said Pam Clark, acting chief of ARL's Battlefield Environment Division. "It gives us an opportunity to share what we're doing and keep them (children) interested in math and science."

Clark and her team set up surface sensors and then released a large balloon with sensors hanging from it to gather data from three different altitudes. This is their fourth year volunteering with the program, and each year the operation gets more advanced.

"The first year we did it, we got out there and set up the equations on a white board," she said. "This year we did a wireless link. Kids who had PDAs, smart phones, etc ... would get reports coming in every 30 minutes."

"It's definitely evolved into a high-tech data (operation)," she added.

According to Trip Barber, president of the National Association of Rocketry, it's great that the Army supports the challenge, which is held to encourage children to consider careers in math, cience and engineering, especially aerospace.

"(The weather team is) one of the neatest things out there," said Barber. "Before ARL supplied the data, we never knew how important of a factor (weather data was) in the safety and flights of the rockets. It's really one of the most important things we have."

While the environmental team provided data for the launch, ARL supported the event in other ways. Soldiers from the laboratory displayed some of the cutting-edge technologies being developed by the Army for the kids to check out in their free time.

"We're very happy to have ARL's participation," said Barber.


Last Update / Reviewed: August 31, 2009