PUEBLO COUNTY — Colorado looked more like Cape Canaveral Saturday as dozens of rockets took to the sky, all as part of a national competition.
The American Rocketry Challenge National Finals are normally held in Washington D.C. each year. But organizers decided, with COVID, it would be safer to spread it out across the country to multiple regional launch sites.
The rockets might be scaled down from NASA’s, but the concept is the same
“It’s actual rocket science,” competitor Maddie Leiker-Walter said.
And for these young rocket scientists, it took quite the commitment to get here.
“Everyday after school from around four o’clock to seven at night,” her teammate Kalon Kirk said. “This is actually the farthest I’ve made it on the team… to the second round.”
‘Here’ is the American Rocketry Challenge National Finals. A field west of Pueblo was chosen as one of 11 regional launch sites this year.
It’s why Kirk and Leiker-Walter’s team from Wichita, Kansas was there Saturday--
“We’ve been on a little vacation,” Kirk said.
--Where they’ve taken on new challenges.
“The altitude is a lot higher than it is in Wichita,” Leiker-Walter said. “So we had to make a lot of changes.”
They’re just happy they can be here to take on those challenges.
“Our principal cut the funding for the program in 2019,” Kirk said.
After they lost support from their school, they had to fend for themselves.
“This is not a cheap hobby,” Kirk said.
But they made it, which is why while their launch didn’t necessarily turn out as they would’ve hoped--
“We did not qualify for the top 10,” Kirk said.
--The knowledge and experience they’ve gained is what they appreciate the most.
“I wouldn’t take this back for the world,” he said.