Nearly 700 teams of middle and high school students across 48 states, the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands are gearing up for the 2012 Team America Rocketry Challenge, the world’s largest student rocket contest and a critical piece of the aerospace industry’s workforce development pipeline.
The 10th anniversary competition is the most challenging in the history of the event. This year, each team is tasked with designing and building a rocket carrying a two egg payload to 800 feet and back during a 43- to 47-second flight without cracking. A strict limit on liftoff weight forces students to focus on designing the payload bay while building a lighter, stronger rocket. The top 100 teams will advance to the National Finals May 12 at Great Meadow in The Plains, Va.
Sponsored by the Aerospace Industries Association, the National Association of Rocketry and more than 30 industry partners, the contest aims to inspire middle and high school students to pursue careers in science, math and engineering.
“We’re thrilled to see the competition evolve from a one-time celebration of flight to a true workforce development program,” said AIA President and CEO Marion C. Blakey. “We know the quality and value that TARC alumni bring to our industry and the competition serves as a model for other sectors.”
With teams hailing from Hoonah, Alaska, to Pensacola, Fla., the contest includes all-girls teams, a team with members who will be the first in their family to graduate from high school and a team from Joplin, Mo., whose community was ravaged by a tornado last May.
In a 2010 TARC alumni survey, approximately 80 percent of respondents said TARC had a positive impact on their course of study. Four out of five respondents reported that they plan to pursue a college major in an area related to science, math or engineering.
“TARC has been a defining factor in my choice to study engineering,” said Landon Fisher, TARC national champion team member. “The program gave me a way to learn the hands-on side of engineering and opened up many educational opportunities. Next fall I plan to head to one of the nation’s top aerospace engineering programs.”
Teams are competing for up to $60,000 in scholarships and prizes, as well as an opportunity to participate in NASA’s Student Launch Initiative. Raytheon Company provides funding for the winning team to defend America’s 2011 championship title at the international fly-off at the Farnborough International Air Show in July against teams from the UK and France.