Alabama, West Virginia cadets competing in Team America Rocketry Challenge

MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. – Civil Air Patrol cadets from the Alabama and West Virginia wings make up two of the 100 teams that will compete this weekend in the Team America Rocketry Challenge in The Plains, Va.

Teams representing the Alabama Wing’s 117th ANG Composite Squadron, based in Birmingham, and the West Virginia Wing’s Martinsburg Composite Squadron reached the field of finalists after proving themselves equal to this year’s challenge. Teams were called on to design a rocket that weighs 650 grams or less and can carry a large grade-A egg lying on its side to an altitude of 750 feet, then return the payload to the ground using a 15-inch parachute in 48-50 seconds without breaking the egg.  

The top 100 teams, which represent 29 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands, emerged from a 725-team national competition that’s now in its 11th year.

“Qualifying within the top 100 is an incredibly challenging and exciting achievement,” said Marion C. Blakey, president and CEO of the Aerospace Industries Association, which works with the National Association of Rocketry and such industry partners as Raytheon Co. and Lockheed Martin to sponsor the competition. “But equally impressive are the nearly 5,000 students who were inspired to explore science, engineering and technology through their participation in this year’s challenge.”

Teams will compete for the national title, with the top 10 finishers splitting more than $60,000 in scholarships. Top teams also have a chance to participate in NASA’s Student Launch Initiative, an advanced rocketry program.

Both Civil Air Patrol teams experienced some tense moments in reaching the finals.

When the Alabama cadets launched what they hoped would be their qualifying flight, they noticed that the rocket motor was fitting more tightly than usual, but they proceeded anyway. That proved to be a mistake, as the motor proved too powerful and they were never able to recover the projectile’s nose cone, which contained the egg and the altimeter.

The next weekend, after they build a new nose cone, bad weather prohibited a follow-up attempt. Thanks to spring break, however, some of the cadets had a chance for one last trip to the launching site. The ensuing last-ditch flight allowed them to meet the competition’s specifications just a few hours before the deadline for submitting the qualifying information.

In West Virginia, the Martinsburg cadets also survived a series of setbacks – including two catastrophic engine failures that forced them to repeatedly rebuild their rocket. Their last qualifying flight allowed them to make it to the final 100.

The Alabama Wing team:

  • Cadet 2nd Lts. Naomi Shea and Charles Yarbrough.
  • Cadet Staff Sgt. Quinton Harvill.
  • Cadet Airman 1st Class Joseph Craig.
  • Cadet Airman Christian Sims.
  • Cadet Airmen Basic Kenneth Horne and DeVorien Owens.

The West Virginia team:

  • Cadet 2nd Lt. Kenneth Main.
  • Cadet Chief Master Sgt. Casey Densmore.
  • Cadet Senior Master Sgt. Nicole Orr.
  • Cadet Airman Nicolas Heredia.

Civil Air Patrol, the official auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force, is a nonprofit organization with 61,000 members nationwide, operating a fleet of 550 aircraft. CAP, in its Air Force auxiliary role, performs 90 percent of continental U.S. inland search and rescue missions as tasked by the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center and is credited by the AFRCC with saving an average of 80 lives annually. Its unpaid professionals also perform homeland security, disaster relief and drug interdiction missions at the request of federal, state and local agencies. The members play a leading role in aerospace education and serve as mentors to more than 26,000 young people currently participating in the CAP cadet programs. CAP received the World Peace Prize in 2011 and has been performing missions for America for 71 years. CAP also participates in Wreaths Across America, an initiative to remember, honor and teach about the sacrifices of U.S. military veterans. Visit or for more information.