SHS rocketry team headed to nationals

Michael Hutchins
Herald Democrat
Kelton Kuntz poses with a rocket during launches. Kuntz will be competing in national rocketry challenges this weekend while representing Sherman High School.

Rocketry and the aerospace industry as a whole have always interested Kelton Kuntz, who plans to pursue the field as a career. Later this year, he plans to join the military in order to further his interest in flight and rocketry.

This weekend, Kuntz will be representing Sherman High School when he shows of his skills in rocketry on a national stage after a year of delays.

Kuntz, who graduated from Sherman High School in May, will represent the school when he competes in the national finals of the American Rocketry Challenge.

The event challenges students from across the country to design, build and launch model rockets while trying to meet goals on height and air time. Kuntz' team initially qualified for the 2020 competition, but it was cancelled last year amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

 "In addition to the impressive task of launching a rocket 800 feet into the air, teams competing in 2021 had to overcome new obstacles created by the pandemic," the organization said in a press release. "From Zoom practices, virtual launches and calculations, to new distancing protocols and procedures, the 2021 finalists are truly the cream of the crop of future engineers – and problem solvers."

Kuntz is one of six members who qualified for the national rocket competition last year after submitting strong qualifying times. However, since the 2020 competition was postponed, only Kuntz was available to attend the national finals. Many other students have since graduated and gone on to other things, including college, said Rob Davis, a SHS chemistry teacher who served advisor.

"I am proud of them and I am glad that they finally get to," he said. "They built a good rocket and got a good score and really stuck with it. They worked hard on this and deserve it."

Despite last year's cancellation, the scores from 2020 were allowed to rollover, which qualified the Sherman team for this year's event.

"I've just always really been passionate about rockets and aircraft in general," he said. "I am going into the air force later this year, hopefully to work on F-21 Raptors depending on what I end up going into."

Kuntz first learned the SHS has a rocketry club in his freshman year and joined it when he was a sophomore. Since then, Kuntz has done many of the qualifying launches that led the team to the finals for the 2020 contest.

The event will challenge the teams to perform a series of launches with target heights and flight times that they must achieve.  In addition to the time and height, the rocket and a raw egg must return to the ground safely.

When designing and preparing for launch, Kuntz said he must take into account several factors that could affect the flight. This could lead teams to add or remove weight on launch day.

"The strongest obstacle for rockets like these is wind. Once it goes off the rail, it will tilt it to where it is not flying straight up," he said. "So, we have to design it so that there is as little weathercocking as possible."

Traditionally, teams would compete in Washington D.C., however the pandemic led organizers to split it into smaller regional events. Kuntz will do his flight this weekend at Rockdale, Texas.