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HHS tech students among nation's best

Adviser chosen as best in state

Staff writer

Three Hillsboro High School Technology Student Association members placed in the top 10 in their events at National TSA Conference, June 21 to 25 in Dallas, Texas.

Freshman Erich Herbel placed second in flight endurance, receiving a trophy. Junior Aaron Slater placed fifth in dragster design, his third top-10 finish in the event. And Bret Mueller placed seventh in dragster design on his first attempt.

Herbel’s rubber-powered airplane flew in a pattern for 2 minutes, 25 seconds on its first flight before landing. If his second flight had lasted that long, he probably would have won the championship, sponsor Creigh Bell said.

Bell thinks Herbel’s courtesy may have cost him the championship. He allowed several competitors to go ahead of him while keeping his plane wound before the second flight. Keeping the rubber strand stretched tight causes it to lose elasticity quickly, Bell said.

In the qualifying round of dragster design, Mueller had the fastest time out of 137 competitors. His 30-gram balsa dragster traversed the 65-foot track in 0.837 seconds — or nearly 53 miles per hour.

Mueller had a breakdown in the quarterfinals.

“I ran a slower time than I had, but I won the race,” he said.

However, an impact broke one of the axles of the racer, and he couldn’t continue.

“It’s kind of hard to watch the car I beat advance to the finals,” Mueller said.

After finishing in seventh place, Mueller plans to compete in the event again. He wants to surpass his brother, Nicholas, who placed sixth nationally in dragster design in 2008.

Slater, using the same design as Mueller, had the eighth best qualifying time in dragster design. In the tournament rounds, he placed fifth.

The dragster design and flight endurance events require a level of attention to detail uncommon among high school students, Bell said. For example, in dragster design, competitors need to take the weight of the paint and finish on their car into account.

The long hours put into designing and making their projects can be tedious at times, team members said.

“But it’s fun to succeed,” Mueller said.

Slater and Mueller also competed together in structural engineering and problem solving, and all three competed together in on-demand video.

Additionally, Bell was recognized as Kansas TSA Adviser of the Year, chosen by students and advisers.

Last modified Aug. 11, 2011

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