Monday, October 11, 2010

Contest Report

Thank you for your support of TeamSteele in 2010.

We did not get the medals we were seeking, but we did have a good time. The flying was a lot of fun, with 24 national teams, and over 250 of the world’s best racketeers in one place. Serbia was beautiful, and we were well treated by everyone we encountered.

In the Junior Division B Scale Altitude (designated S5B), Katie and Cassidy Steele entered models of the Space Grant 1, a NASA sounding rocket. Katie had her model finished before we left the States, but Cassidy had a few small things left to finish before the judging turn in.

In the Senior Division C Scale Altitude, Matt flew a Bumper WAC, Round B-8. He also had a few little things to finish before turn in, but there was no frantic building prior to turn in, like there had been in the Steele family workshop the month before the meet.

The judging of the Scale Altitude models was completed on Tuesday night. In the Junior division, the US Space Grant models were at the bottom of the static points as expected, since the Space Grants favor altitude capabilities over scale qualities. Katie had 473 points. Cassidy and George Reynolds were tied for last with 462 points. The top model in the static scoring was a Russian Bumper WAC that received 647 points. To win, the US team would have to fly at least 174 meters higher than the Bumper WAC.

In the Senior division, the top static score was another Russian Bumper Wac, with 669 static points. The US models were in the middle of the pack, with James Duffy scoring 625 points, Tony Reynolds scoring 619 points, and Matt Steele scoring 603 points. With the altitude potential of the Bumper WAC design, the US Team felt like there was medal potential, especially since all three team members had medaled in this event before. Most of the competition was Taurus Tomahawks, which scored well in static points, but do not fly as high.

On Wednesday, we awoke to light rain at breakfast. The weather was overcast in the morning, and finally cleared in the afternoon, but the wind was constantly at the limit. It was not fun.

Cassidy had the first flight of the US Junior team. Her Space Grant 1 model had a 13mm Estes A3-0T (from a special batch made for the 1985 US Team) in the lower stage, and a 10.5mm Delta A2-6 in the upper stage. Cassidy tried her first flight from just a tower. She had a good flight, only to have it disallowed when the Range Safety Officer couldn't confirm that it landed safely. It later turned out the model did land safely, but stripped the streamer off and made it hard to see. She had the 355 meter, flight, the third highest flight of the event. Learning from Cassidy’s problems, Katie added some red tracking powder to her model. She got both stages to work properly, but with the wind, the second staged weathercocked quite a bit. The RSO saw her flight, and when the model and the tiny altimeter were recovered, it showed 376 meters. This was the highest flight of the event, but it was only good enough to place her 11th overall.

Cassidy’s first flight damaged the motor tube in the model, and she struggled to repair it for another flight. Her second attempt was not successful, so she ended up with a zero for an altitude score. USA’s George Reynolds had problems getting his upper stage motor to ignite and also got a zero for a flight score.

In the end the Russian Junior team won the gold, and the US S5B Team ended up 8th. Had Cassidy’s first flight been seen by the RSO against the cloudy, gray sky, and George gotten his model to work, the US team would’ve won the bronze or silver team medal.

By the time the Senior team got to fly in the afternoon, the skies had cleared, but the wind kept blowing. Flying an Ultra B5-0 motor in the V-2 portion of the Bumper, and an Ultra B2-7 in the WAC, James Duffy had his first flight fly only to 238 meters. James later realized that his model hung up on staging. Matt Steele went next, only to have a low flight when the upper stage motor failed to ignite. Tony Reynolds followed with a spectacular flight to 606 meters, demonstrating the design’s potential. Disaster struck on Matt’s second flight attempt, when the second stage ignited with the WAC pointed down, causing it to pile drive into the ground, shattering the tiny model. The recovery team returned a small bag of “particles” to Matt, but never did find the altimeter – it may have vaporized! A third attempt by Matt with a single stage version did not go high enough to trigger the altimeter.

Tony ended up finishing 4th, just out of an individual medal. James was 18th and Matt was 24th out of the 35 entries. The US Team ended up in 6th overall. Again, with a little luck, the team could’ve earned a medal, as the potential was there.

We made a safe and uneventful voyage home, with a four day layover in Germany. We certainly had to scramble when we got back to the "real world" at work and school - paying the price for being away and out of touch for so long. It was worth it, though. We truly enjoyed the experience of traveling to a foreign country where not every teenager has an iPod and a laptop. It was an eye-opening experience. We felt proud to represent the United States and the National Association of Rocketry to the rest of the world spacemodeling community. It was a truly memorable event.

Cassidy and I hope to go to Slovakia in 2012. Katie is too old for the next Junior team, but hopes to go to see some of the friends she made.

We would like to thank everyone who contributed to help us. Every little bit counted, right up to the end. We appreciate your generosity – thank you so much!

Matt, Katie, and Cassidy

TeamSteele 2010

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