Cullman Area Technology Academy rocketry team

Cullman Area Technology Academy rocketry team members Ty Manley, right, and Andrew Tucker work on rockets that the team will be taking to compete in the National Finals of the Team America Rocketry Challenge.

The Cullman Area Technology Academy’s rocketry team is preparing for a shot at a national award and the chance to represent the United States in an international competition.

Out of 830 teams from around the country, the CATA rocketry team is one of 101 that qualified to compete at the Team America Rocketry Challenge’s National Finals, which will take place next Saturday in Virginia.

There is around $100,000 in prize money up for grabs in the competition, and the winner will move on to the International Rocketry Challenge and travel to France to compete against teams from around the world.

CATA engineering technology teacher and team sponsor Phillip Gay said CATA has had a rocketry program for four years and has participated in three competitions hosted by the University of North Alabama in that time, winning two of those.

This year is the first time that the team has qualified for the Team America Rocketry Challenge, so its members are ready to get out and compete at a higher level, he said.

“They’re very, very excited,” he said.

The goal for the rocketry competition is to build a rocket that can fly three raw eggs to an altitude of 856 feet before safely returning the uncracked eggs to Earth – all within 43 to 46 seconds, said 10th grader Andrew Tucker, who is one of the six students on the team.

“It’s basically like golf,” he said. “You’re trying to get a score of zero.”

The team members began working on the design for the rocket in October and began building it in January in preparation for competitions, and they have spent this week building an exact replica of their rocket in case they have any issues with it.

While the team has never competed in the national finals, its previous competition results show they have a chance to win, Tucker said.

“Our score that we had at UNA would have beat the national score last year,” he said. “We would have won it last year if we had that score.”

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