Durham County

Jordan High School’s Rocketry Team takes competition title

The Jordan High School Rocketry Team is having another impressive year.

The team recently took a First Place title in the Battle of the Rockets competition, which was held in Fruitland, Maryland, getting the best of several advanced high school teams and also several college teams.

The Battle of the Rockets competition was held over two days, April 22-23.

Jordan competed in the college planetary lander event, which required the team to build a rocket capable of launching to at least 1,000 feet that also contained a planetary lander that deployed at 600 feet and transmitted telemetry such as luminosity, temperature, humidity, UV data and more.

In addition, the Jordan team’s lander transmitted photos.

The lander opened after it reached the ground and took pictures of the land around it.

The pictures were then transmitted remotely to a ground station more than a quarter mile away.

“Ours was the only payload that was able to successfully transmit pictures,” said Lorenzo Shaikewitz, a Jordan High sophomore who co-captains the rocketry team.

The rest of the team included co-leader Hassan Polani, Irene Zhang, Anna Pannick, Stephen Chesser, Shreya Bhat, Aidan Keaveney, Caleb Keaveney, Amy Cheng and Sarah Tolman.

Shaikewitz said the team was surprised by its success given the strength of the competition, which also included a team from the N.C. School of Science and Mathematics and prestigious universities such as Northwestern, Northeastern universities and Case Western Reserve.

“It was a really tough competition,” Shaikewitz said. “We were surprised we did so well.”

Polani, a senior, said the team’s hard work paid off.

“I enjoyed the event a lot,” Polani said.

Polani initially believed Jordan had been disqualified when he mistakenly thought the rocket didn’t launch to the required 1,000 feet.

“Then, I turned around and found out we weren’t disqualified and that we’d actually won,” said Polani, crediting team mentor Dave Morey, a retired computer programmer, for helping it achieve success in demanding competitions.

The JHS team continues to gain notoriety despite a change in faculty leadership.

For several years, the team had been led by Jeffrey LaCosse, who left the district at the end of the 2015-16 school year.

This year, the team is led by physics teacher Justin Finger.

Last April, Jordan’s rocketry team’s success landed it a trip to Washington, D.C., to present at the White House Science Fair.

The Rocketry Team was one of 13 high school teams selected in the U.S. to participate in the NASA Student Launch program last year at NASA's Marshall Spaceflight Center (MSFC) in Huntsville, Alabama.

The team built a rocket to carry an experiment to an altitude of 1 mile and safely return to Earth.

Next up for the JHS Rocketry Team is Team America Rocketry Challenge (TARC) 2017 National Finals, which takes place May 12-13 in The Plains, Virginia, about a one hour drive west of Washington, D.C.

The JHS team is one of only six from North Carolina to compete in the TARC, which is the world’s largest student rocket contest that attracts more than 5,000 students each year.

The other teams include two from Victory Christian Center School in Charlotte, two middle school teams from East Alexander Middle School in Hiddenite and one from NCSSM.

They will compete against teams from 27 other states and the U.S. Virgin Islands in the Final Fly-off on May 13 for $100,000 in scholarships and a chance to represent the nation at the International Paris Air Show.

Greg Childress: 919-419-6645, @gchild6645