Junior rocket scientists sought for New Zealand Rocketry Contest

Boosting an egg high into the air on a rocket and returning it safely to Earth may seem like one small step for New Zealand science but it could be a giant leap for aspiring Kiwi space enthusiasts.

The inaugural New Zealand Rocketry Challenge is set to take off with registrations now being called for, as KiwiSpace and the NZ Rocketry Association search for budding rocket scientists to "reach for the stars."

"The challenge is to design, build and fly a model rocket to a precise altitude, returning a raw egg - the astronaut - safely and undamaged," explained Mark Mackay, Executive Director of KiwiSpace. "Closest to the target altitude, wins!"

The competition, which is based on popular overseas contests such as the Team America Rocketry Challenge, will see participating teams compete at a public fly-off in Auckland on Saturday 17 November.

Mark Mackay said this first competition would be a pilot to gauge interest and help build a base of trained educators who can support and use rocketry in schools.

"We are running a free rocketry workshop in conjunction with Aerospace Education during the October school holidays. It's open to teachers of all age groups and parents/mentors supervising teams, and will teach model rocket safety, hands-on experience building a rocket suitable for the challenge, and ways to incorporate rocketry education in the classroom."

He believes the competition will be a roaring success. "Rockets always capture the imagination. The contest fly-off will be a blast - with lot of great rockets flying … and undoubtedly a few cracked eggs."

But Mr Mackay emphasised that the contest wasn't just entertainment. "It's not just about blasting a rocket into the air -- students need to carefully plan their rocket and its flight parameters, just like an aerospace engineer."

Teams have until 31 October to register. As part of their $75 registration fee, teams are supplied with a huge starter pack containing a rocket launch pad, electronic launch controller, motors for test flights, a digital altimeter and more.