CARY, N.C. (WNCN) — Three teams from the Triangle are heading to the national finals of the American Rocketry Challenge, the world’s largest student rocketry competition.
They are among 100 finalists in the U.S. to compete for $100,000 in prizes.
Two of the teams are from the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics in Durham, which has had teams compete in the competition before.
For the first time, a middle school rocketry team at the Triangle Math and Science Academy in Cary has entered the competition and made it to the finals.
Eighth-grader Pragna Surabathula created the team this school year after she said a visit to NASA inspired her to become an aerospace engineer.
She said she started researching rocketry online and found information about the American Rocketry Challenge. From there, she created the team with the competition in mind.
“Because we all worked together and did our best, we were able to achieve this thing that we didn’t think we were going to achieve,” she said. “When we did get in, I was really surprised, because it’s our first time and there’s a bunch of people who have been doing this for years.”
In the competition, the teams have to put a hen’s egg in their rocket and blast it either 825- or 875-feet in the air – a number decided by a coin toss on competition day.
The rocket will split in two, and both parts need to land with parachutes.
The twist is – the egg must return to the ground without cracking.
“For me, in my opinion, the hen egg is the easiest part,” Pragna said. “The altitude and the time are the more harder parts than the hen egg.”
Pragna said all of the team’s practice launches have been successful so far.
The winner of the national competition will win the title of national champion and an all-expense paid trip to the International Rocketry Challenge at the Paris Air Show in June.
The top 25 teams will automatically receive invitations to NASA’s Student Launch workshop.
“We worked really hard to get here,” Pragna said. “If you try your best, you can achieve whatever you want to do.”
The competition is scheduled for May 20 in The Plains, Virginia, just outside of Washington D.C.
Three schools in Charlotte and one school in Elizabeth City are also finalists in the competition.
Click here to see the full list of finalists, categorized by state.