Georgetown 4-H team wins international rocketry competition

Team represented U.S. at Paris Air Show

GEORGETOWN – C’est magnifique! The three teenage members from Georgetown 4-H, who comprised the U.S. national rocketry team, recently took home gold medals after besting other national teams at the sixth annual International Rocketry Challenge in Paris.

The team, consisting of  brothers Matthew and Mark Janecka, 17 and 13 years old respectively, plus Daniel Kelton, 16, sent a horizontally placed raw egg more than 700 feet over Paris in a model rocket to win the competition.

The team outfitted in safety jackets for the rocket launch. (Photo courtesy of Amy Janecka)

The team was outfitted in safety jackets for their rocket launch at the Paris Air Show. (Photo courtesy of Amy Janecka)

In May, the Georgetown 4-H model rocketry team, sponsored by Raytheon, won the 2013 Team America Rocketry Challenge held in The Plains, Va., earning the right to represent the U.S. at the international competition — part of the 50th annual Paris Air Show.

At the Team America Rocketry Challenge, the Georgetown 4-H team outperformed some 470 teams making at least one qualification flight attempt, as well as 100 teams that came to the finals. The finalists represented 29 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

In addition to the air show and participation in the rocketry competition, the team from Texas was treated to a tour of Paris, which included Notre Dame, The Louvre, the catacombs and Napoleon’s tomb.

“It was a great experience,” said team captain Matthew Janecka. “We really enjoyed the air show and the Raytheon people treated us really well. The whole thing about winning the competition hasn’t really sunken in yet, but we had a terrific time and enjoyed seeing Paris.”

The French team, which previously held the title, came in second place, and Britain came in third.

French president Francois Hollande was present at the competition to congratulate members of each team. And show organizers presented the U.S. team with their medals and a crystal trophy at a chalet near the flight line at Le Bourget Airport.

Among other experiences at the Paris Air Show and international rocketry competition, the winning U.S. team, comprised of three Georgetown 4-H members, met French president Francois Holland. (Photo courtesy of Amy Janecka)

Among other experiences at the Paris Air Show and international rocketry competition, the winning U.S. team, comprised of three Georgetown 4-H members, met French president Francois Holland. (Photo courtesy of Amy Janecka)

The International Rocketry Challenge was the culmination of three separate competitions held annually around the world. Each contest brings middle and high school students together to design, build and launch model rockets under specific guidelines and flight parameters.

The Paris contest was organized and sponsored by the Aerospace Industries Association of America; the UK Aerospace, Defense, Security and Space Association, and Groupement des Industries Francaises Aeronautiques et Spatiales, the French aerospace industries association.

“The innovation demonstrated by these students is a terrific indication that the future of our industry is in good hands and that the benefits of global collaboration are limitless,” said Aerospace Industries Association president and CEO Marion C. Blakey.

Kelton said he and other team members were impressed with other aeronautical offerings at the Paris Air Show, touted as the oldest and largest in the world.

“We got to see the newest jets, including the Eurofighter and the new Russian SU35, plus all the acrobatic flight displays,” he said. “As for the rocketry competition, we knew we were prepared  and just hoped we were better prepared than the other national teams.”

Next summer, Kelton will participate in another international competition to be held in Bulgaria.

Competing teams at the Paris show built and launched rockets with a goal of reaching an altitude of exactly 750 feet during a 48- to 50-second flight window and returning a “payload” of a horizontally placed raw egg undamaged to the ground by parachute. Teams were also required to give an eight-minute presentation on their rocket design to a panel of international judges.

“We were mainly worried about the weather,” said Mark Janecka. “It was high humidity and looked like it might rain. We were concerned that the rocket would not get to a high enough altitude because the rain would slow it down.”

But the team’s rocket reached 703 feet, flew within the designated time frame and returned its payload undamaged. Combined with receiving the top score in the presentation portion, the U.S. team was awarded first place in the competition.

The team at the Paris Air Show with Colonel W. Collier Slade, USA, Chief Office of Defense Cooperation Director, Joint and Army Affairs, Embassy of the United States, Paris. (Photo courtesy of Amy Janecka)

The team at the Paris Air Show with Colonel W. Collier Slade, USA, Chief Office of Defense Cooperation Director, Joint and Army Affairs, Embassy of the United States, Paris. (Photo courtesy of Amy Janecka)

Working together to design, build and launch their own rockets provides young people the opportunity to collaborate and solve problems creatively as a team, said Raytheon chairman and CEO William H. Swanson in a press release.

“We believe these ‘learn by doing’ experiences not only stimulate enthusiasm for STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), but also help to build the skills needed to bolster innovation in the global arena,” Swanson said.

The Janecka brothers and Kelton all plan to pursue degrees in aeronautical and aerospace engineering.

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