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Liberty’s Team Bazinga lands national nods in rocket championship

Liberty Team 1 members Coach Nate Pahman, from left, Tyler Clay, Holden Wells and Zachary Burns finished eighth in the nation and won $2,500. (CONTRIBUTED)
Liberty Team 1 members Coach Nate Pahman, from left, Tyler Clay, Holden Wells and Zachary Burns finished eighth in the nation and won $2,500. (CONTRIBUTED)

MADISON – Team Bazinga from Liberty Middle School earned national recognition at the Team America Rocketry Challenge (TARC) in The Great Meadow, Plains, Va.

Liberty coach and math teacher Nate Pahman said 735 teams from across the United States started in the competition. The top 100 teams qualified for the national championship on May 11.

Liberty Team 1 with eighth-graders Tyler Clay and Holden Wells and seventh-grader Zachary Burns finished eighth in the nation and won $2,500 in prize money and $2,000 for Liberty’s rocket program. “Team 1 was in first place after round one and had the day’s best flight of any school,” Pahman said.

Liberty Team 2 with eighth-graders Austin Sparks, Nicholas Scala, Jordyn Barrett and Michael Kvicala finished 31st nationally among 100 teams. “Team 2 had a fantastic day, also and nearly made the top 24 to advance to round two,” he said.

Liberty Team 2 members Coach Nate Pahman, from left, Austin Sparks, Nicholas Scala, Jordyn Barrett and Michael Kvicala finished 31st in the nation. (CONTRIBUTED)
Liberty Team 2 members Coach Nate Pahman, from left, Austin Sparks, Nicholas Scala, Jordyn Barrett and Michael Kvicala finished 31st in the nation. (CONTRIBUTED)

Liberty teams learned rocketry fundamentals from the Huntsville Area Rocket Association, assisted by Dr. Bill Cooke with NASA and Pahman. In design, students used computer simulators and then built and tested their rockets several times from August through May.

“These rockets were built from scratch. Kit rockets aren’t allowed,” Pahman said. “The nose cone was made of PVC, the body of cardboard and the fins of wood.” Rockets measured about 50 centimeters long, 6.5 centimeters in diameter and about 350 grams.

This year’s rocket was required to fly to 750 feet, carry an egg horizontally without breakage and use a 15-inch parachute. Keeping the rocket aloft for 48 to 50 seconds was the most difficult concept, Pahman said.

Pahman founded the Liberty rocket team in 2010, assisted by HARA and Bob Jones High School graduate Peter Wetzel.

The 2010-2011 team didn’t qualify for national championships, but the 2012 team rated fifth nationally. Four students joined the rocket team in 2010; 13 students on four teams competed in 2012.

Pahman acknowledged the generosity of sponsors United Launch Alliance of Decatur and MTA Inc. of Huntsville, along with team parents.

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