The Times West Virginian

Local News

May 8, 2014

North Marion Rocket Club in national competition

RACHEL — A North Marion High School team will be competing in a national competition.

The North Marion High Rocket Club will be traveling to The Plains, Virginia, where the Team America Rocketry Challenge (TARC) will host the national competition Saturday.

Team One from North Marion is one of two West Virginia teams representing the state during the competition.

Competing teams are required to assemble a rocket that travels to exactly 825 feet, deploys two parachutes of equal size and lands while not damaging two raw eggs. This must be done between 48 and 50 seconds. Teams are scored based on how well they stay within the criteria. The team with the lowest score wins.

Chris Tennant, a science teacher at North Marion, works with the club.

“I’m extremely proud of the students for how persistent and dedicated they are,” Tennant said. “In spite of the fact they had failures, they continued to work toward their goal.”

Tennant said failures can include rockets not launching the correct distance or having the proper travel time, or other malfunctions. The students dealt with the cold winter weather during some launches.

Todd Ensign is a program manager at Fairmont’s NASA IV&V facility and mentor for several teams in the state. Ensign said he went to the TARC four years ago and noticed that no teams from West Virginia were there.

Ensign began to develop programs and helped form a local club of volunteers. These volunteers included professionals, parents and teachers.

“Tennant is an amazing K-12 science teacher. Most schools in the state do not participate because they do not have a teacher like Mr. Tennant,” Ensign said. “Not only is he letting them compete; he writes grants (and) participates in the club.”

Last year, West Virginia had 29 teams competing, with five of those going to the national tournament. This year, there are 22 teams.

“We went from nowhere on the map to over 20 teams and growing. It took us 10 years to get back into the national (competition),” Ensign said. “I am really, really proud of our state, and we made a comeback.”

According to a press release, the students at the event will be competing for $60,000 in scholarships and prizes. The winning team from the national competition will be placed in an international competition against the United Kingdom and France.

Email Richard Babich at or follow him on Twitter @rbabichTWV.

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