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Last updated: June 3, 2004
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Rocket League finals (5/25/2004)

Here's a brief report on the Rocket League finals, which were Tuesday evening.

We had about 70 teams participating (they didn't all return their scoresheets), and made about 120 flights. The main objective was to launch a rover toward a fixed target 100' from the launch pad, and have it land successfully and move toward the target while making measurements of some kind. A typical advanced rover was a zip-zap RC car with an aquarium thermometer stuck to it along with some sort of windsock and maybe pH paper, a compass, a magnet or double sticky tape (dust collectors). We gave points for pretty much anything that could measure anything, if the kids could tell the story.

There was a lot of creativity, and very little emulation of what NASA might do (for example, there was only one example of a split nose cone ejecting a rover). Some teams dropped a bouncing ball with from their rocket, others put wheels on the nose cone, flew gliders, or rubber-band powered lego vehicles. One team flew hissing cockroaches with a streamer and sensors affixed to their backs--these were ejected at apogee (which was deliberately kept low, the better to get near the target). They proved self-righting, durable, and capable of movement across the terrain, and scored quite well.

Being an RSO in this competition is challenging, because a lot of weird looking asymmetrical rockets fly pretty well. You can hang a superball or a zip zap on a string outside of the nosecone of an AstroSat, and it will go straight up (more or less) every time! But it's less likely to be successful if it's hung at the mid-body joint.

Similarly, rockets flew with cars sticking out the top, with bugs and beads taped to the side, and with flat plates as nose cones.

That's the flavor of it; there are pictures up on the website--check out the links on the Teams page and the photos on the Launch Photos page, both of which can be reached from

[Ted Cochran]

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