More than 600 teams from 48 states and the District of Columbia are preparing their hand-designed model rockets to qualify for the ninth annual Team America Rocketry Challenge May 14. This year’s roster includes teams from many schools that are venerable veterans as well as 161 teams that are joining the competition for the first time.
The contest is sponsored by the Aerospace Industries Association and the National Association of Rocketry, in collaboration with the Defense Department; NASA; the American Association of Physics Teachers; Estes, a rocket motor manufacturer, and more than 30 industry partners. The contest aims to inspire middle and high school students to further study and choose careers in science, math and engineering.
“TARC builds on students’ skills and enthusiasm for designing, creating and flying rockets, and introduces them to college and career opportunities in STEM fields,” said AIA President and CEO Marion C. Blakey. “With 60 percent of the current workforce over age 45, we see TARC participants as the future of the aerospace industry.”
Each three- to 10-person team is challenged to design and build a rocket that will rise to an altitude of 750 feet during a 40- to 45-second flight carrying a raw egg, which must return to the ground undamaged. Teams have until April 4 for their qualifying flights, with NAR representatives across the country judging each entry. The challenge culminates May 14 when the 100 teams with the best qualifying scores compete at the finals at Great Meadow in The Plains, Va., near Washington D.C.
TARC’s impact on the workforce pipeline reveals progress in an industry in need of skillful, knowledgeable young professionals. In a 2010 survey of TARC alumni, approximately 80 percent of respondents plan to pursue a college major in an area related to science, math or engineering.
“A lot of my friends joined TARC in my senior year, and I tried it and really liked it,” said 2006 TARC Alumnus Johnna Esposito. “Little did I know it actually led me to aerospace engineering at Virginia Tech and now I’m hoping for an aerospace career too.”
Teams are competing for up to $60,000 in scholarships and prizes; $15,000 in additional scholarships is furnished by Lockheed Martin Corporation. Raytheon Company provides funding for the winning team to attend an international fly-off at the Paris Le Bourget Air Show in June against teams from the UK and France.