University of Maryland Extension

Two Thumbs Up for Maryland State 4-H Aerospace Challenge

Image Credit: 
Daniel Diep

Twenty seven 4-Hers from eight counties attended the State 4-H Aerospace Challenge on Sunday, July 20 from 2-7 pm at the Howard County Fairgrounds. Whether an experienced rocket modeler or newcomer to the project area, youth had the opportunity to expand their study of aerospace, be tested on their knowledge, and make engineering decisions while building and launching a rocket—all while having a great time! The event and preceding workshop was organized and presented by the aerospace education team of Rachel Harris, Joe Schepis, Cathy and Andrew Dobos, and Rich Lempicki from Montgomery County and Andy Driesman from Howard County. The workshop and Challenge were sponsored by the Montgomery and State 4-H Offices, and attended by Dwayne Murphy, Faculty Extension Assistant from Baltimore County, as well as numerous adult volunteers.

In order to prepare the 4-Hers, an Aerospace Workshop took place the week before on July 13, with thirty eight attending from nine counties. This workshop included slide show presentations on aerospace history, physics, and flight with a separate session for the Juniors; model rocket parts-identification; gluing procedure; and three age-appropriate rocket kit-building sessions. The Juniors built an Estes Make It Take It with plastic fins; the Intermediates a Surefire Explorer X-19, with optional fin designs; and the Seniors a Quest Courier, an egg lofter. Soon the rocketeers were launching their creations in the outer parking lot field to cheers and high-fives. The Seniors took special note of how their rockets behaved in order to prepare for their engineering challenge the following week: to build a rocket from components (not a kit) with few instructions, that would carry an egg payload safely back to earth in the shortest amount of time. All participants took home materials that they would need to study during the week to do well at the Challenge.

At the Challenge the 4-Hers immediately began building their rockets—whose launch quality would be scored this time. Besides the Seniors' egg challenge, Juniors built a BMS School Rocket with through-the-wall fins and streamer, and the Intermediates had a fun surprise to add to their component-built rocket: a payload for a live cricket! After the rockets were built, 4-Hers took aerospace examinations, and parts-identification tests. Then they proceeded out to the launch area while adult volunteers scored exams and took their places on the range with score sheets, alti-trackers, and timers. An odd-roc built from oatmeal containers by Andrew Dobos opened the launch with the loud roar of three E12 motors. Then the Juniors launched first with every single rocket flying straight and true, and reaching at least 200 feet in altitude. The Intermediates had to coax a special chirping passenger into their payload bays before hooking up to the launch equipment. Every cricket survived (worth 5 points) and was given its freedom after the launch. The Seniors had the most difficult objectives to achieve; in the end two teams' eggs stayed intact and two broke.

Photographs by Daniel Diep

After the ribbons and score-sheet packets had been distributed, it was announced that, courtesy of the State 4-H Office, the two top-scoring Seniors would be awarded a special "4-H senior aerospace winners' trip" to take place in October. This three-day excursion will include a stop at the CORE Lab (composites research) at UMD College Park; a trip to Wallops Flight Facility on Virginia's eastern shore where they launch re-supply missions to the International Space Station, and a stop at the Maryland-Delaware Rocketry Association launch field on the Eastern shore where the seniors may launch their winning rockets.

The 2014 state aerospace events were successful and the feedback has been very positive. Many thanks to the extension personnel who publicized them in county newsletters, online and in special e-mails.

Here are the standings from the Challenge. Congratulations to all of our 4-Hers who studiously applied their knowledge and skills for high-flying day!


1. Samuel Jones—Baltimore County    CHAMPION
2. Aaban Syed—Howard   RESERVE CHAMPION
3. Anthony Jones—Baltimore County
4. Kshitija Banali—Baltimore County
5. Christian Lumb—Queen Anne's
6. Andy Diep—Montgomery
7. Oliver Tesar—Garrett
8. Kira Murphy—Harford
9. Lauren Guernsey—Montgomery
10. Eric Guernsey—Montgomery
11. Ryan Guernsey—Montgomery


1. Trevor Babb—Montgomery    CHAMPION
2. Imaad Syed—Howard   RESERVE CHAMPION
3. Jordan Johnston—Howard
4. Craig Stone Sefcik—Baltimore County
5. Hannah Jarboe—St. Mary's
6. Peter Tesar—Garrett
7. Brian Hwang—Baltimore County
8. Heather Guernsey—Montgomery


1. Jessica Bleich and Richie Lempicki—Montgomery    CHAMPION
2. Kai Huang and Patrick O'Hanlon—Montgomery    RESERVE CHAMPION
3. Jason Staley and David Lumb—Queen Anne's
4. Kerrin and Cody Viney—Carroll County

Jessica Bleich—Montgomery
Kai Huang—Montgomery

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