Fifteen-year-old Gregory Miller never expected to win the Anne Arundel County Science and Engineering Fair.
"I was just hoping to get first place in my category," Gregory said.
It's a good thing the Arundel Middle School student sat near the front of the auditorium at Broadneck High School when they announced the winners last month. Gregory had to make several trips to the stage as he took home first place in physics, received 10 special awards and won the grand prize of the science fair.
Coincidentally, the trophy Gregory received from the Air Force for participating is shapedlike a rocket. Gregory's project focused on rockets.
Gregory is preparing to take his project of modified space rockets on the road and into a national competition in Nashville, Tenn., next month.
"I'm kind of nervous," he said. "We'll probably go on tours. It'll be pretty neat to see the other people's designs."
Winning science awards is nothing new for Gregory. Last year, he took first place in the county for his botany-related science project. Gregory did several controlled tests on tomatoes grown from seeds bred in space and regulartomatoes to determine if there was any difference in how they grow.
This year, entering the science fair proved more challenging. Gregory's school did not have a formalized group of participants to enterthe science fair, so the youth had to enter on his own.
In December, Gregory began gathering information on rockets from the Goddard Space Flight Center, NASA and Anne Arundel Community College. The focus of his science project was to build a rocket better than the model he had.
Gregory devised a computer program to assist with his rocket launch trials. In the end, he was able improve the design by altering the three fins on the bottom of one of the rockets. Gregory foundhis altered rocket could reach a higher altitude.
Gregory said the judges at Broadneck High School seemed impressed with his project. Many took the time to sit down and try out his computer-simulated trials.
Still unsure what he wants to do with his life, Gregory said he'll probably end up in a math- or science-related field.
"I'm taking honors geometry right now," he said. "I'll be taking honors physics in a couple of years. I'm not sure about after that."
An EagleScout, Gregory confessed he's not a straight-A student. He has received a couple of B's.
For the national competition, Gregory is redesigning his science project with the help of some graphic artists in the county school system. The content is not being changed, but the project is being made more visually appealing.
If the redesign can be completed by April 19, the project -- which stands about 5 feet tall -- will be shipped to Nashville.
If it is not completed by then, Gregory and his father will have to take the project with them whenthey fly to Nashville next month.
While it would be easier to have his project shipped, Gregory said he really isn't concerned about how the project will get there.
"I'm just looking forward to going," he said.