The Team America Rocketry Challenge — A Chance for Your Students to Soar
By Gregory Severino
I write this essay as a TARC mentor, team adviser, and most ardently, as a teacher.
Every one of us has a desire to make an impact in this world. Seizing an opportunity to help others, serving as a role model for younger generations, contributing to our field of knowledge, or any other endeavor that defines us as individuals, are all expressions of our innate drive to make a difference. Finding the means is sometimes a challenge, but I would like to share with you just how meaningful the Team America Rocketry Challenge has been for me, a teacher, and more importantly, for my students.
This year, I had the honor of coaching The Soaring Six, an all-girls middle school team who did remarkably well in their first TARC outing. Their enjoyment from the several awards they won was obvious on their beaming faces, but during our post-TARC dinner, the girls reflected on what the TARC journey meant to them. Suffice to say, what they shared will inspire me for the rest of my days.
So, what was it? What did my girls learn and appreciate by participating in TARC?
The Team America Rocketry Challenge enabled my girls to become more than the Soaring Six — they became Soaring Spirits. There were many memorable instances of the girls rising above the ordinary during that weekend in May, but one stands out. We were fortunate enough to attend Rockets on the Hill on the day prior to the Competition. While watching my team interact with astronauts and aerospace leaders, my students astounded me with their intelligence, articulation, and leadership qualities. The Soaring Six shined brilliantly that day in the Senate Building, and never in my life have I been prouder as an educator. I saw my girls for who they are: tomorrow’s leaders who will trail blaze new directions that today we can scarcely imagine. The Team America Rocketry Challenge opened some awe-inspiring moments for my team, and it is precisely these kinds of opportunities our young people need.
During our TARC preparation phases, many people expressed their deep admiration for this all-girls rocketry team. The girls worked long hours after school on multiple builds while improving on their viable designs. They endured setbacks like late supply deliveries, broken components, lost rockets, and weekend after weekend of bad weather. A month before their qualification flights were due, we lost our flying field, putting us in a minor panic. But through it all, my girls showed what it takes to succeed at anything worthwhile in life — tenacity, resilience, and firm courage. They demonstrated originality and creativity in situations that would leave many of us daunted. Yes, they are indeed what this nation needs. Yes, it’s great that more girls are getting involved in the STEM fields. But there’s something else in everything the girls accomplished, and it’s who they are as people.
And as a teacher, this lesson has been priceless for me.
Get your kids involved in the Team America Rocketry Challenge — it’s one of the best life-learning experiences any one of us can give to the next generation.
Gregory Severino is a Honors Math teacher at Our Lady Of Calvary School located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and team coach of the Soaring Six Rocketry Team.