HANCOCK COUNTY -- For a group of Biloxi High School students, it really was rocket science Thursday morning as 26 members of the Junior ROTC participated in a rocket-launching competition at Infinity Science Center.
The rockets were built by the students as a homework assignment over the Thanksgiving holiday.
"This is one of our curriculum in action trips," JROTC instructor Maj. Ed Butler said. "We have been studying the space program. These students scored the highest on the tests and they were issued a model rocket kit."
The student-built rockets were put to the test in the parking lot of Infinity.
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Each student launched his or her own rocket, which was timed from the moment it launched until its parachute deployed and safely landed.
The longer the rocket stayed in the air, the higher the score.
"There are different engines for the model rockets, but we are going to use the A engines and that should take them up about 500 feet," Butler said.
Future of space travel
Butler said it was no coincidence the competition was the same day NASA was set to launch a spacecraft from Cape Canaveral with supplies for the International Space Station.
"That is part of the trip," he said. "This study is all about rocketry and trying to get the students excited about the space program."
Sara Kostmayer, a 10th-grader, said the assignment was challenging.
"I had never done anything like this before," she said. "But I want to go into astrophysics or something like that. To work in the space program would be amazing."
Freshman Lilly Reilly, who built her rocket with her father, said the competition had piqued her interest in space.
"I want to learn more about space, and I love rockets," Lilly said. "I have never been to Infinity before so this is a great experience."
Mac 'n' cheese in space?
The competition had its ups and downs, as flight times ranged from almost 30 seconds to less than 5 seconds.
Sophomore Becca Robertson said she wanted to do something a bit different with her rocket, even if it meant sacrificing a decent score.
"Maj. Butler said he had never seen a pink rocket so I decided to do a mac 'n' cheese rocket," Becca said.
Becca's rocket was decorated with pictures of macaroni and cheese, which she said was her favorite food. Although her rocket's flight time was about 4 seconds, she said she learned a valuable lesson through the rocket-building experience.
"I didn't follow the instructions," she said. "I changed something in the rocket's design. Next time, I'm going to definitely follow the directions."