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It was a question of precision: The rocketeers had to get their payload as close as possible to 800 feet (244 meters) in the air within 46 to 48 seconds, taking weather, wind speed, subtle changes in weight and precise angles into account. If the payload was damaged, it would be instant disqualification — and that payload was a single egg.

On June 19, seven middle school and high school students from Russellville City Schools in Alabama took home first place in the International Rocketry Challenge at the 2015 Paris Air Show. They competed against just two other teams — the top rocket squads from Great Britain and France — but before that, they beat out more than 700 teams in their regional competition and 101 in the Team America Rocketry Challenge (TARC) nationals.

To succeed time after time, the students had to make the volatile rocket launches as predictable as possible. They were constantly adjusting their launches, adapting to deal with hot and humid weather where they first built the rockets, in Alabama, to cool, foggy early morning launches in Washington for the TARC finals and the final competition in Paris.

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