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Last updated: June 3, 2006
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Dakota County 4-H at the TARC Finals (6/1/2006)

 It is a bit late but here is a short report on the Dakota County 4-H TARC Team's trip to the National Fly-off.

We flew out Thursday evening through Detroit and got to bed around midnight.  You can't fly when you want to and get cheap tickets so we had a 6:30am departure on Monday.  All four team members went along with myself and another chaperone.  Friday we slept in, then toured the Endless Caves in New Market.  Friday evening we attended the briefing
where we picked up the rockets, engines and stuff that had been shipped earlier in the week.  Everything made it in good shape.

Trip started off with his usual time hack to drive home the point that each team gets it's launch window and if you miss it your out.  John Douglas, AIA CEO and Mark Bundick said a few words followed by J.P. Stevens, AIA - TARC then Trip with launch details.  A NASA guy, can't remember his name, talked about Mars being a place of extremes.  Mars at
one point had water all over on the surface but now has none.  There is a volcano that is many times larger than the largest on earth and there is a canyon system that dwarfs the Grand Canyon.  All on a planet that is much smaller than earth.

Sat. morning started off with the National Anthem followed by a flyover of two Harrier jets then an omelet breakfast courtesy of the National Egg Board.  We had the first window from 9:00 to 10:00am which means you can start setting up at 8:00am.  They measured the wind and setup of for 4 mph.  The rocket flight went well with an altitude of 829 ft. and time of 42.22 seconds for a final score of 31.78.  This put them in 28th place out of 100 teams.  There were a couple of long faces because they wanted to do better, however, after winning last year anything less is a bit of a let down.  I gave them some encouragement later in the day by pointing out that they beat 72 other teams.  How do you think they feel?

After their flight they were trying to explain why the rocket went too high.  They had set up for 4 mph winds but just at launch the wind dropped to almost 0.  The team does not get to push the button so they cannot control exactly when the launch occurs.  There also is a disagreement on the ground altitude correction factor.  Ben had consulted a physics professor that volunteers with some of our 4-H aerospace activities.  They came up with 24 feet.  That is, because the
ground altitude is different near Farmington then the altitude at Great Meadow, you should calibrate the rocket get an altitude reading of 824 ft. at Farmington to get 800 ft. at Great Meadow.  Now the other team members wondered whether Ben got this mixed up somehow.  We ran across Ted who introduced us to the Apple Valley team.  When asked, they said their altitude correction was negative 4 ft.  Hmm, a much smaller number in the opposite direction.  They both can't be right!  Well then Nicole decided to ask an expert.  Jeff from PerfectFlite, the makers of the official altimeters, was on site.  He told her it would 1 to 2 ft.  She didn't get a direction.  After several rounds of who is to blame they settled down.  So the mystery continues.  I suggested to Nicole to take this up as a County Fair project.

Anyone know a good source of info. to settle this?

Maranatha and Kimball also flew in the first round.  Kimball had a good flight and made it into the top 25.  Unfortunately, Maranatha DQ'ed when one engine didn't light and it looped up about 10ft then hit the dirt.  Apple Valley flew later in the afternoon.  Their rocket flew well but got caught in a thermal and wouldn't come down.  It floated for over two minutes and almost made it to the forest to the southeast.

We ended the day with the awards ceremony and then the BBQ banquet.  This year it was courtesy of Northrup Grumman.

On Sunday we took the subway to D.C. with the girls and I touring the National Art Gallery and guys visiting the war memorials.  We met up at the Lincoln Memorial then walked past the White House to catch the train again.  We walked 4 to 5 miles and my feet made sure I was aware of that.

All in all it was a good trip.  Judging from comments like; we are going to do this and do that next year, I think the team will do it again.

  [Mark Nelson]

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