Rocket competition launches students into STEM careers with strong representation of girls, minorities and students from rural communities
Arlington, Va. – Middle and high school students in 725 teams across 44 states, the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands are gearing up for the 2013 Team America Rocketry Challenge (TARC), the world’s largest student rocket contest and a critical piece of the aerospace industry’s workforce development pipeline.
Sponsored by the Aerospace Industries Association, the National Association of Rocketry and more than 25 industry partners, TARC aims to inspire and motivate middle and high school students to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math. It also brings together some of the most talented STEM educators from across the country. The top 100 teams will advance to the National Finals on Saturday, May 11th at Great Meadow in The Plains, Va.
Participating teams represent a diverse group of students from urban and rural America. Notably in light of Title IX’s 40th anniversary, the contest has also witnessed a steady uptick in girls’ participation. Including last year’s National Finals runner up, Team Eclipse from San Antonio, Texas, more than 20 all-girls teams will be competing in this year’s challenge.
“Seeing the diversity of teams signed up for this year’s competition is thrilling,” said AIA President and CEO Marion C. Blakey. “But even more exciting are the contributions these students will make over the long term. The true value of TARC is connecting talented scientists and young rocketeers from all backgrounds to develop a pipeline of innovators in STEM.”
Christine Hanger, teacher from Madison West High School and 10-year TARC mentor, has five powerhouse teams – including the 2012 national champions – competing in this year’s contest. “TARC has been a defining experience in my 15 years as an educator,” said Hanger. “I’m so proud of how rocketry has grown to become a privilege in our school. Working with my students year after year and seeing where they land, it’s clear that TARC not only inspires kids in new and innovative ways, it also helps them take off as future STEM leaders.”
Each year, the competition rules are adjusted to increase the complexity and rigor of the event. This year, teams will be challenged to overcome obstacles of drag and recovery as they design and build a wider rocket than in years past. The rocket must safely carry one raw egg up to an exact altitude of 750 feet and land within a duration of 48-50 seconds – a mere two second window before teams are penalized. In addition, rockets have to be recovered by a 15 inch diameter parachute, making it more difficult for teams to adjust timing for the flight because the recovery is constrained by a bigger chute.
Teams are competing for over $60,000 in scholarships and prizes, as well as an opportunity to participate in NASA’s Student Launch Initiative. Lockheed Martin Corporation donates additional funding to support future TARC teams from the top 10 placing programs. Raytheon Company provides funding for the winning team to compete in an international fly-off held at the International Paris Air Show in July against teams from the UK and France.