St. Andrews Priory

224 Queen Emma Square, Honolulu, Hawaii 96813, (808) 536-6102,

Think bold: Hawaii’s oldest all-girls school fielding a rocketry team. That’s what St. Andrew’s Priory did and produced the first team from Hawaii to qualify for and win at the Team America Rocket Challenge (TARC) – and they were one of only two all-girl teams in the national rocket science competition!  

Queen Emma would be proud that her own bold vision over 140 years ago to establish a girls school to develop women leaders who strive for the highest, (embodied in the school motto, Kulia I Ka Nuu), thrives in today’s high-tech world. The Priory’s eight-member rocket team is comprised of Toka Beech, Leah Creamer, Tracey Ige, Kamilla Pollock, Danica Swenson, Dana Arbaugh, Gia Coluccio and Chang Qi. The peer-selected team, members of the Priory’s AP Physics class, took top honors, against 99 other teams nationwide, in “Best Presentation” and “Most Spirited Team.”

Photographs by St. Andrew's Priory School

It was no small feat for the team to build and launch their 46-inch long rocket to rise 748 feet in 42.3 seconds, without breaking two eggs on board, to best other teams from Hawaii schools, Boy Scout troops and other competitors to qualify for the national contest held in Virginia in May 2008. The girls had to master a rocketry computer program to simulate flights, use math and science theory learned in class to solve design challenges, and work together as a team.

Why rocketry? “Why not?” says team coach/mentor and AP Physics teacher Dr. Jacob Hudson, who entered the Priory team in the national rocketry challenge, sponsored by the Aerospace Industries Association, NASA and 34 aerospace companies, to encourage America’s youth to pursue aerospace careers. The TARC recognition affirms the value of the Priory’s commitment to project-based learning. “The team had to touch on all aspects of physics and math to solve real-life problems to build this rocket,” says Hudson. 

The rocket team also affirms the value of the Priory’s all-girls environment, says Head of School Sandra Theunick, where “girls are given diverse opportunities to develop their talents, to become comfortable in their own skins and to become resourceful, respectful and responsible leaders.” As goodwill ambassadors for Hawaii, the team was well-prepared and articulate to win “Best Presentation” and demonstrated enthusiasm and confidence to impress the judges and newly-made friends to win “Most Spirited Team.”  

Sandra Theunick Head of School

Renowned for its challenging college prep curriculum taught in small classes by dedicated faculty (more than half with advanced degrees like Dr. Hudson), the Priory guides each girl to develop her fullest potential with a variety of opportunities, from sports and sciences to arts and technology. Authentic learning experiences, such as the rocket project-based learning, critical thinking methodologies, stimulating class discussions, and community service, prepare girls for success in college and beyond.

With diverse interests and accomplishments in art, dance, sports, and student council, all of the graduating team members will attend college and one is now sure she wants an aerospace career as an astronaut.  Proud of the girls’ national recognition for the school and Hawaii, the Priory is considering robotics next. Queen Emma would be proud.