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World’s largest rocket contest inspires growth in STEM-related areas of study, careers
May 14, 2011
A team from Rockwall-Heath High School in Heath, Tex., took first place at the ninth annual Team America Rocketry Challenge (TARC) finals Saturday afternoon, besting 99 teams from across the country to earn the title of national champion.
Rockwall-Heath joined more than 600 participating teams in September 2010 on a journey that included rocketry design, simulated flights and test launches. Sponsored by the Aerospace Industries Association and the National Association of Rocketry, the contest encourages students to prepare for careers in the aerospace industry, which is working to boost the pipeline of students with science, technology, engineering and math skills.
“This contest is why I’m going into aerospace,” said team president John Easum, who is attending Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in the fall. “It's hands-on, and you experience a lot of failures, but then you troubleshoot and end up with success. It's a really good feeling.”
The first place team logged a 16.0, earning the best score of the competition. Each three- to 10-person team was challenged to design and build a rocket that lifted off to exactly 750 feet during a 40- to 45-second flight. The payload, a raw egg, had to return to the ground by parachute undamaged.
Lambert High School from Suwanee, Ga., and Harmony Magnet Academy from Strathmore, Calif., tied for second place with a score of 23.0.
Rockwall-Heath, located in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, sent two teams to the final flyoff this year. In addition to Easum, the championship team is comprised of seniors Michael Gerritsen and Colt McNally and junior Landon Fisher.
“We’re delighted with this year’s competition,” said AIA President and CEO Marion C. Blakey. “It’s clear that all the teams put a lot of effort into their rockets. I’m sure that in just a few short years, we’ll be welcoming a number of today’s participants to our industry.”
More than 50,000 students have entered the competition since TARC’s inception in 2003. In a 2010 survey of TARC alumni, 92 percent of participants said they would encourage a friend to pursue a STEM-related career and four out of five respondents said TARC has had a positive impact on their course of study.
Raytheon Company is a major sponsor, providing event support and funding for the Rockwall-Heath team to advance to the international fly-off on June 24 at the Paris Le Bourget Air Show to compete against teams from the UK and France. The winning team shares a prize pool of more than $60,000 in scholarships and prizes with other top finishers, including $15,000 in scholarships from Lockheed Martin Corporation. The top 20 teams also will receive an invitation from NASA to participate in its Student Launch Initiative, an advanced rocketry design program.
The Defense Department; NASA; the American Association of Physics Teachers, Estes – a model rocket manufacturer – and more than 33 industry partners also support the contest.
Complete competition results and high-resolution images are available at www.rocketcontest.org.