Wisconsin High School Again Lands the Top Prize in National Rocketry Competition

Madison West High School, from Wisconsin, took first place for the third time at the Team America Rocketry Challenge in 2019. Next, they're headed to Paris for the International Rocketry Challenge.
Madison West High School, from Wisconsin, took first place for the third time at the Team America Rocketry Challenge in 2019. Next, they're headed to Paris for the International Rocketry Challenge. (Image credit: Aerospace Industries Association)

A high school team from Wisconsin is on its way to Paris after taking top prize at the Team America Rocketry Challenge, according to a May 18 announcement. Their win is the third time that Madison West High School received top honors.

The students will now represent the United States at the International Rocketry Challenge, which is held at the Paris International Air Show in June. The global competition includes entrants from France, Japan and the United Kingdom.

"This feels amazing — I didn't expect us to win today," team captain Jacob Mello said in a statement. "We really didn't know each other well at the beginning of the year, but we became friends and pulled together as a team. We encouraged each other, which really helped us today. There's a lot of pressure to keep up America's winning streak in the international competition, but we're looking forward to it."

This year's contest had a theme dating back to the human Apollo missions of decades ago, since 2019 is the 50th anniversary of the first human moon landing. On top of their rockets, student competitors added a separate capsule with three raw eggs inside, symbolizing the three Apollo astronauts who participated in each mission. The competition required that each capsule rocket to 856 feet (260 meters) in altitude and then return to the ground, eggs intact, within 43 to 46 seconds.

The American competition featured 101 teams from 25 states. Dozens of sponsors (led by the Aerospace Industries Association and the National Association of Rocketry) offered $100,000 in prizes. The top 10 teams each took a share of the purse, with Madison West receiving $20,000. The top 25 entrants in the American competition were also invited to participate in NASA's Student Launch initiative to further develop their rocketry skills.

The full list of participating students at Madison West High School (with ages in brackets) include: Mazelie Passmore (14), Ella Paulin (15), Ethan Lan (15), Rohan Yethiraj (15), Jacob Mello (15), Lukas Weinhold (14), Alex Goff (14) and Nathan Wagner (15).

More than 70,000 middle and high school students have participated in the contest since it started in 2003.

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for Space.com for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: https://qoto.org/@howellspace