The Winfree Bryant Aviators are reaching for new heights this year with a new student organization. In October, the school started its Rocketry Club, and last weekend, the students brought home a first-place trophy during a competition in Huntsville, Ala.
There are seven girls and seven boys in the club. Members include Emma Kate Hall, Emma Naylor, Cale Ricketts, J.W. Baird, Jake Maynard, Sydney Hallums, Christina Greer, Maureen Cotter, Olivia Fancher, Nick Osborn, Todd Divine, Eric Rhodes and Scott Brotherton.
Tammy Sheppard is the advisor, and she said the Saturday competition, which was part of the Team America Rocketry Challenge, had its share of drama.
"On Saturday we had a very dramatic launch in Huntsville; it went ballistic," Sheppard said.
This rocket belonged to the girls' team, which was eliminated due to their rocket being blown into pieces.
"It went into a mud puddle, so we repaired it. It had swollen, and it didn't come apart when the ejection charge went off. It went ballistic and it came straight down."
When it came time for the boys' team to take its turn, it was decided they were only going to do a practice run, and Sheppard said this launch was their best effort.
"The guys decided not to do a qualifier, so they did a practice run, and it was the best run we had. In the process the fin broke off [the rocket], and we couldn't find it. The girls literally ripped a fin off their rocket and put it on the guys," she said.
This was about 12:30 p.m. and the competition concluded at 1 p.m. Sheppard said the teams use a 30-minute epoxy, which meant it would be a close shave to get the rocket launched in time.
"We had three minutes to get to the launcher before the competition was over," Sheppard said. "They ran to the launcher and shot it, and we got first place off of that launch."
On Wednesday, the students launched rockets at the Ward Ag Center in practice for qualifying for a trip to the nationals in Washington D.C. Six of the team members were on hand to get things in the air and see how close they would get to their goal.
Winfree Bryant scored a 61 in Hunstville, and Sheppard said most teams qualify for nationals with a score of 10 or below.
"The closer to zero we get, the better we are," she said.
Winfree Bryant principal Becky Kegley came Wednesday to watch one of the launches and see the students in action.
"I am really proud of them," Kegley said. "They're a great group of kids to be this dedicated and spend so much time. For it to be the first year and to have gone this far is unbelievable."