Oak Park High School Rocketry Team on the Launch Pad for Future Success

Great scientific breakthroughs and engineering achievements begin when an individual’s spark of curiosity grows into problem-solving tenacity. A vibrant high school rocketry program starts the same way, with one curious student. Such is the case with the Oak Park High School (OPHS) rocketry team from California, one of the teams that competed in this year’s Team America Rocketry Challenge (TARC).

Six years ago at OPHS, Calvin Earp, a freshman with a passion for aerospace and aviation heard about TARC, a national student rocket contest where teams of students design, build and fly rockets to specific and rigorous parameters. The rules change every year to challenge students, and this year participants were required to build rockets that carried two raw eggs to an altitude of 850 feet and return them to ground, uncracked, within 44-46 seconds.

Undaunted by the challenge, Calvin was eager to participate and immediately sought support for a team. He found an advocate in Dr. Anthony Knight, the superintendent of the Oak Park Unified School District, and together they scraped together the funds to get the program off the ground.

The OPHS rocketry program made great progress in its early years, catching the attention of The Boeing Company. The passion, dedication and hard work of students like Calvin inspired Boeing to sponsor the school’s team.

Now in their sixth season, the school has multiple teams in their growing rocketry program, one of which qualified for and competed in the National Finals this past weekend, after beating out nearly 700 other teams in the most competitive year in TARC history.

“Boeing’s support has allowed us a greater freedom to build and test more rockets for TARC than we otherwise could,” said Aviv Maish, Team President of OPHS Rocketry. “Because of their support, many of us could come out and compete at National Finals in Virginia.”

Last week the team, including three students who have never flown on a plane before, traveled to Washington, D.C. (aboard a Boeing 737-800) and competed head-to-head against the nation’s top 100 student rocketry teams.

While the OPHS team rocket – named “Boeing 100” in honor of the company’s centennial anniversary this year – didn’t win a national championship, it did successfully launch in very windy conditions to qualify the team for the second round of competition, which was then cut short by inclement weather. From their initial design discussions in the classroom all the way to the National Finals, team members described an educational and rewarding experience.

“TARC provides students great opportunities to learn critical skills through a fun, hands-on rocket design challenge. The rockets must meet very specific parameters that mirror many of the requirements our own Boeing engineers face. These experiences help prepare – and hopefully inspire – students to be the next generation of rocket scientists,” said Tom Bartlett, Senior Manager for Boeing Global Corporate Citizenship.

Boeing’s support of the program has inspired OPHS rocketry alumni to pursue degrees in materials engineering, aeronautical engineering, computer science, marine biology and other STEM fields. In fact, today Calvin Earp is in his third year of the aerospace engineering program at Boston University and plans to work in the industry upon graduation.

Boeing and TARC hope to see many of the team’s future graduates follow in Calvin’s footsteps to pursue an education and productive careers in the aerospace industry.

Boeing is proud to invest in student rocketry programs through sponsorship of TARC, the Oak Park High School team and other teams across the country. In addition, Boeing employees volunteer as mentors for the competition through the National Association of Rocketry.

TARC, now moving into its 15th year, is the world’s largest rocket contest and the aerospace industry’s flagship STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) workforce development program with more than 5,000 students participating.