Oregon Episcopal School Excell at American Rocketry Challenge

Once again, Oregon Episcopal School (OES) in Portland has excelled at the American Rocketry Challenge, securing 20th position. Schools from 45 states with more than 900 teams competed in this year’s challenge in The Plains, Virginia.

Its top 25 win has earned the OES an invitation to compete in the NASA Student Launch Challenge – NASA, a nine-month event that challenges students nationwide to design and build a rocket with a high-powered engineering or scientific payload. This research, hands-on based activity, culminates when the students launch their rockets at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.


Pre-Competition Mishap Almost Cost OES its Ranking

Despite losing their rocket during a trial launch the night before the competition, the students overcame the mishap, and no one is prouder than the team members and tutors of the Oregon Episcopal School who achieved 20th position.

The night before the competition final, the students decided to test launch their rocket but lost their invention in the dark. Horrified at what had happened, they rushed back to their hotel and frantically began building a prototype. The next day, they found the original rocket just hours before the start of the final competition launch.

Despite their setback, the team’s rocket was given a competitive score in the first launch of the competition. Hunched over a computer, the students were thrilled when the launch results started appearing, particularly as their final placing in 20th position exceeded their expectations.

Team leader, 17-year-old Madoc Plowman, said losing the rocket was one of the most important lessons because the team learned how to work under pressure. Plowman says building the prototype was stressful and chaotic but, in the end everything came together. “That’s one of the most valuable lessons we learned this year,” said Plowman, who dreams of becoming an astrophysicist.


Hard Work Reaped the Rewards

The OES rocket team worked together the entire year to build and successfully launch a 30-inch rocket. The model was equipped with a one raw egg ‘bomb’ and climbed to an altitude of 820 feet. Team members worked after school, sometimes up to six hours a day.

In an interview, Plowman said the excitement of the competition has inspired the team to begin working on a new rocket design for next year’s American Rocketry Challenge. They plan to work on their project during the summer school holidays.

Their placing in the competition has earned them an invitation to participate in the 2025 NASA Student Launch Challenge, restricted to 21 winning pre-competition entries. OES must submit a design proposal of a rocket five times the size of entries they have submitted in past events.

This year, the OES team was advised by Jack Reynolds and Layne Bradshaw. Reynolds said the students displayed extraordinary self-motivation strength and an intrinsic ability to acquire knowledge.



The OES is proud of its history in the American Rocketry Challenge, claiming 1st position in 2021.

Oregon Episcopal School is a top 100 private high school in Raleigh Hills, Portland. It is ranked as the 14th best school in the country.

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