Local Rocketry Club Invited to The White House

The Elena Christian Junior High School has been invited to participate in an all-expense-paid trip to the fifth annual White House Science Fair hosted by the president this weekend.

This is just the latest of many noteworthy accomplishments in the 15 years that Elena Christian Junior High School science teacher Steve Bullock has been heading up the Rocketry Club

“We are making Virgin Islands history,” Bullock said at a news conference Friday at the school. “We are now a buzz word in the capitol.”

The team of five leaves St. Croix Saturday and will begin to set up their rocketry display Sunday afternoon. Monday, the students will discuss their projects all day with members of the Presidential Commission on Science and eventually President Barack Obama.

None of the adults will be allowed into the White House either day but will watch the activities via satellite from the Executive House. Bullock said it “almost seems unfair,” but is happy for the students.

As ECJH Principal Carlos McGregor said, “The road to the White House began in Schang Field,” where the first experiments were held years ago. The club worked hard and improved their process and results. They built their confidence, and seven or eight years ago they entered their first stateside competition, Bullock said.

That participation in the Team America Rocketry Challenge in Virginia paved the way to the White House, Bullock said. Each year, Team America invites 1,000 schools to register for the competition and selects 100 to build rockets for the competition in May. Each year, there are different requirements, such as the rocket’s reaching a certain height, the length of time in the air and returning to earth with the payload — an unbroken raw egg.

For the last five years, the St. Croix club has attended the finals at the Team America Rocketry Challenge, placing 24th out of 100 last year. This year, the club will try to meet the challenge to build a rocket to fly exactly 800 feet for 48 to 50 seconds.

Their ranking last year qualified the ECJH team to participate in the NASA-sponsored S4 Payload Competition in June. (S4 stands for Small Satellites for Secondary Schools.) They will design and build a microprocessor to measure weather and scientific data, competing with four other junior/ high schools and 25 colleges or universities.

The rocketeers are Stephanie Bullock, Amari DeSouza, Gabriel St. Kitts, Maria Heywood and Shimeeka Stanley. Also traveling to Washington D.C. are Bullock, club advisor, Coach Subhasanie Bullock, and advisors Sherma Ferdinand and Camille Gouveia.

The students all said a few words during the press conference. Stephanie Bullock said, “There are no words to describe my feelings about going to the White House.” Other comments included “ecstatic” and “excited.” Stanley said she is looking forward to showing all the “movers and shakers” that “a minority can make a huge difference.”

The superintendent of St. Croix schools, Colleen Williams, was on hand to commend Bullock and the students for “ground breaking” and “setting the way for other students to follow in your footsteps.”

After the conference, McGregor led the group outside, and school staff unveiled a banner over the school’s main entrance in honor of the Rocketry Club.

The Rocketry Club returns Tuesday afternoon.

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