CLUTE

Breaking world records was in the stars for the Brazoswood Rocket team who was awarded by SystemsGo for their Horizon 1 Rocket passing over 40,000 feet.

SystemsGo presented the Kepler Award to the team at the rocket celebration Monday night for getting to their goal of between 37,000 and 50,000 feet, Assistant Program Director George Burns said.

“The Kelper Award criteria is that the rocket goes higher than 37,500 and between 50,000 feet, and that’s why they got it because they were inside the number at 45,482,” Burns said. “The award is great, but knowing what these kids have learned is the more important thing.”

SystemsGo is a high school rocketry/aerospace curriculum out of Fredericksburg. This is the team’s fifth award from them, with the first received in 2018 and 2019 for a successful launch and two in 2022 for another successful launch and a transonic flight.

“This award has shown how hard this team worked,” rocket engineering teacher Chris McLeod said “It’s rare that you see all of the efforts get fully awarded, and in this case, this team’s communication, efforts and overcoming obstacles had them come together, and it all worked.”

With the previous height record at 34,000, Horizon 1 hit 45,482 at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico in late June, still boggling the mind of the lead engineer Karim Elyousseff.

“I can’t begin to talk about my emotions; I’m just so ecstatic right now,” he said. “I feel on top of the world. It’s the best I’ve ever felt. I appreciate what everyone has done for us and how much they’ve helped us throughout this entire process, and everything they have given to us. It’s great how everything worked. Every time I look at the rocket, I remember all of the hard work and how amazing it was to see it launch. I still can’t believe it, and it’s been over a month.”

Now on his way to college, the skills he’s learned while building Horizon 1 will transfer throughout his life, he said.

“Not only do I now know how to build a rocket and have the engineering experience to apply that to several other places. It’s going to help me in college because I’m majoring in AeroSpace engineering,” Elyousseff said. “This program changed my life. It made me decide I wanted to go into AeroSpace Engineering and has pushed me into so many different opportunities.”

Part of the success of the rocket is given to the professionals in the industry who sponsored them monetarily, Elyousseff said.

“We are all proud of what was accomplished here and proud to be part of this,” Dow Texas Operations Site Lead Fernando Signorini said. “We learn from finding ways that don’t work, and then you change and make it work. I’m glad to see all the learnings applied here over the years. Companies like Dow invest in programs like this, but there are not enough billions out there to inspire people the way your guys did. The new generations are going to be looking at this accomplishment, and that is vital for our industry. This was amazing. Keep on developing and learning.”

As the launch was celebrated, what was left of Horizon 1 was displayed at the front of the room to show what it had sustained during the flight.

“I was mostly concerned we wouldn’t get it back because the tracking system lost it, and we were having trouble getting our coordinates from the radio, so it took a while to find it. It was revealing to see them come back with it,” Evan Andress said.

Andress contributed the o-ring and ceiling design to the rocket. When they switched to a welded oxidizer tank, he did the calculation on the stress of the tank what it could hold and how the heat would affect the strength of the albumin on the tank, he said.

“The secret of this is that it’s only a little bit rockets, working on your component and incorporating that with the team and organization and teamwork and talking to professionals in the industry,” Andress said. “It feels good. It’s a combination of all of the work put in by everyone in here over the year. It’s good to see it pay off and good to see the support from parents and sponsors.”

With the ecstatic energy in the room, former rocket instructor Dale Hobbs was among those in awe of what the students had accomplished.

“There are the people that make me feel good about the United States of America,” he said. “They represent what is possible, so it makes me feel quite comfortable, and these people will be in charge one day, I hope soon. I am extremely proud of what they achieved. The technical excellence they have shown is remarkable. You get this level of ability and competence until you’re out of college and in the industry usually, so it’s amazing what they have accomplished here.”

Hobbs had been the rocket instructor from when the program began in 2011 until 2020 when McLeod took it over.

“These were the 10 most meaningful years of my life to be associated with this rocket program,” Hobbs said. “To tell you what these guys did, the best rocket we made, their rocket weighted half as much and went twice as high as the best one we produced. That’s the progress represented in just four years.”

During Hobbs’s presentation, he took the audience through the past years of building rockets with prior teams. He spoke of each demise and the learning challenges, and how they have progressed each time.

“It makes me feel thankful for someone like Chris McLeod to take this program over and take it to the next level,” he said. “He attracts the best students in the school. I can’t wait to see where they go next.”

As McLeod gets ready for the next year, the two teams have already met to discuss the upcoming rocket, he said.

“The next team will start the week before school starts. They’re ready to come up. They’ve met with this year’s team already, and they’re ready to get started,” he said.

With every year, starting from scratch, McLeod plans on bettering time management and communication to build upon the past, he said.

“This world record couldn’t have happened to a better group of kids. It’s a great reflection of who they are as students and young adults. I think the future of this program is what we’ve been doing, building the legacy.” McLeod said.

Raven Wuebker is a reporter for The Facts. Contact her at 979-237-0152.

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