Rocket Club Soars to New Heights at OPHS!

February 10, 2019 |Reese Loos

The Oak Park Rocket and Aviation Team consists of 24 students in grades 9-12 from Oak Park High School in Ventura County, California. Boeing is the primary sponsor of the team. The team participates in the Team America Rocketry Challenge (TARC) sponsored by the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA), which is the world’s largest rocket contest. Since 2012, the team has made it to the national finals in Washington, D.C. and Northern Virginia three times by designing and building a rocket to fly to exact specifications and finishing in the top 100 teams out of over 900 in the U.S. The team rocket always sports a Boeing logo. In 2016 the rocket was named the Boeing 100 after the 100th anniversary of the Boeing Company and this past year it was named the Dash 10 after the newest version of the 787. Team members display their rocket at a Congressional Reception held the day before the national fly-off in the presence of government and industry officials. This past year, the guest speaker was Celena Dopart, a human factors systems engineer for Boeing’s Commercial Crew Program, who took time to come and talk to the Oak Park team.

In addition to the TARC program, students on the OPHS Rocket and Aviation Team have all earned their National Association of Rocketry (NAR) High Power Level 1 licenses and regularly build and fly large rockets to over a mile high at FAA-approved launches in the Mojave Desert, the birthplace of modern aviation and spaceflight. The team members have also learned to fly drones in a safe and legal manner. The team mentor, Dr. Tony Knight, who is also the superintendent of the Oak Park Unified School District has become an FAA certified commercial drone pilot for the purpose of teaching students about this new technology and holds a NAR Level 2 Rocketry License. In 2013, the team was only one of 20 high schools in the U.S. to participate in the NASA Student Launch Initiative where they launched an 11-foot tall rocket with a scientific payload near the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, AL.

The team traveled to Nebraska in August of 2017 to launch a weather balloon above the Great Plains during the solar eclipse. The balloon was launched after filing an FAA NOTAM and flew to an altitude of 114,700 feet and drifted over 60 miles. It was recovered within one mile of the planned landing site and delivered spectacular photos. The project was broadcast live on YouTube to over 90 classrooms in Oak Park Schools.

Promoting STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) is a critical aspect of the team mission. The team was invited to host a table at the Wings Over Camarillo Air Show in August and taught young children to build model rockets while WWII airplanes soared overhead. OPHS Rocket Team is a regular participant in science nights at local elementary schools. For fun, the team will go ‘plane spotting’ at LAX for hours and hours.

If it flies, the team is interested. Rockets, weather balloons, and drones are always part of the mission. Learning to manage a project is the primary learning objective. Planning, designing, scheduling, and safety are elements of successful project execution. These skills are not only critical in aerospace, but in other academic areas and in just about all aspects of life.

The Oak Park Education Foundation is proud to annually fund and support the Oak Park Rocket and Aviation Team! To learn more, visit


“Education is the principal agent for change for the next generations to shape a better future. An educated society will make good decisions and do the most to change income inequality. An investment in the Oak Park Education Foundation offers more than ten times the output in results. In fact, it is priceless!”

Advait Shinde, Technology Entrepreneur, Oak Park High Graduate

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