Andover Central High students Trey Black and Adam Jacobson stepped to the launch pad Saturday with two carefully crafted pop-bottle rockets.
The aspiring scientists who went before them used similar designs as they launched their two-liter rockets majestically across the practice field at Wichita State University.
The best designs included parachutes that opened on cue and gracefully floated the cargo — raw Grade-A chicken eggs — safely back to earth.
"We did have one end up on the Koch Arena roof," event coordinator Nick Scocos said.
The Egg-O-Naut competition was one of 56 events that drew more than 1,100 Kansas students to Wichita State on Saturday for the 23rd annual Kansas Science Olympiad.
Throughout the day, 59 teams of middle and high school students competed for a chance to go to the National Science Olympiad at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in May.
By the time the Andover Central team arrived at the launch pad, the best time for keeping an egg aloft was just over a minute. Teams got 15 bonus seconds for bringing the egg back intact and three more seconds if the nose cone successfully separated from the bottle.
The rockets built by the Andover Central team had an added element — balloons.
"The NASA Mars rover had balloons on it," Black said. "We thought it was a good idea."
"We don't have parachutes, so we figured we could use all the cushioning we could get," Jacobson added.
With balloons gripping the outsides of the bottles, they carefully adjusted the nose cone on Rocket No. 1. An event official fueled the bottle with compressed air.
As Jacobson prepared to launch, the wind picked up, and the nose cone tilted to the side.
Jacobson pulled the pin, propelling the bottle about 15 feet into the air before the nose cone popped off and everything flopped to the ground. Time aloft: 1.5 seconds.
"But the egg survived," Black said as he retrieved the rocket parts.
"The egg did survive," Jacobson said.
The second rocket was a no-go.
The Andover Central team got a 15-second bonus for bringing the first egg back intact, and a three-second bonus for separation. Their score of 19.5 seconds wasn't enough to move them into the leaders.
Middle schools qualifying for this year's National Science Olympiad were Olathe's California Trail Junior High School and Leawood Middle School. Qualifying high schools were Lenexa's St. James Academy and Wichita Collegiate Upper School.