KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — The Hardin Valley Academy Aeronautics Club is soaring to new heights. Two student teams will make their first appearance later this month in the national finals of the American Rocketry Challenge in Washington, D.C. 

“I was so excited! I was certain we were going to do it because we did really well on our launches,” Zane Grissino-Mayer, a sophomore and team captain, said. 

Students in the school’s aeronautics club, the AeroHAWKS, are exploring their passion by flying heavy lift planes, a search and rescue drone and launching rockets. 

For the American Rocketry Challenge this month, teams designed, built and test-launched the rockets as much as possible. 

“Our members are very passionate about what we do, especially me and Zane. We try to be at every meeting and just put in the hours and the work and we have Mr. Smyrl which is a big advantage,” Aidan Finney, a junior and team captain, said.

Tim Smyrl is the AeroHAWKS sponsor. He mentored several student competition teams in Georgia where he taught before moving to East Tennessee. 

“The experience I had might of helped speed up the process a little but it’s still on them when it comes down to it,” said Smyrl. 

The teams have to launch model rockets that can safely carry one large egg to a target altitude, stay airborne for an allotted time, and return the rocket to the ground safely. 

The rocket must also separate into two parts and both parts must land with their own parachutes. 

A total of 100 national finalists will face off in the world’s largest student rocketry challenge and the AeroHAWKS are anxious to come out on top. 

“I think that everyone has been working really hard for this and everyone’s hard work has paid off,” Bailey Mounts, a sophomore and safety officer said. 

The AeroHAWKS are also competing in the UAS4STEM Drone Challenge. The team advanced to the national finals happening in Wisconsin in July.