Returning to a national rocketry competition, a Bellevue student and her former adviser hope to spread the gospel of rocketry to other schools.
After a team of students from Odle Middle School in Bellevue won an international rocketry competition in London last year, three of them have established new teams this year as they’ve moved into high school.
And Mikaela Ikeda, captain of last year’s winning Odle team, will soon be back at a national rocketry championship with the team she’s formed at Sammamish High School.
The 13-year-old also wants to inspire her peers to establish more teams across the Puget Sound region, which may happen with help from her former adviser, Brendan Williams.
Williams, an Odle teacher, has been working with the Museum of Flight to create a regional rocketry hub that would help students and teachers create their own rocketry teams and classes, build relationships with the region’s aerospace industry and identify sites where teams can test out their rockets.
Williams, who already hosted a series of teacher workshops last fall, modeled the idea after a similar hub in Alabama helped develop more than 20 rocketry teams in that state.
“There are more students who need this, not just in Bellevue,” he said. “It doesn’t have to be daunting. It’s doable.”
For students who want to start their own teams, Ikeda is ready to share what she’s learned.
“Don’t let a ‘no’ make you quit,” she said. “I had (to ask) four different teachers at my high school if they would consider being my adviser, and only two said they would.”
The Thunderbirds, named after the Sammamish High mascot, will travel to Washington, D.C., on May 12 and 13 for this year’s Team America Rocketry Challenge. The competition challenges each team to launch a rocket carrying an egg that rises 775 feet into the air and returns the egg safely to Earth by parachute within 41 to 43 seconds.
Ikeda’s successors at Odle will also be there, as will teams from the private Bush School in Seattle, Skyline High in Sammamish and Riverpoint Academy in Spokane.
At stake this year: $100,000 in scholarships and prizes and a chance to represent the U.S. at the International Rocketry Challenge, which this year will be held in Paris.
“Last year when we were building the rocket, it was probably a lot easier because everyone on my team had a year or two of experience,” Ikeda said.
This year, however, she’s taken on more of an instructional role as she guides her new teammates through the design, construction and testing of their rocket.
Next year, she hopes some of her teammates will recruit even more students, so Sammamish will have multiple teams.
“It’s a lot of work,” Ikeda warned. “But the reward of being able to actually fly something that you’ve created from scratch and designed off software you’ve probably never used before — it’s pretty amazing.”