TARC Students Showcase Rockets as President Obama Highlights “Mars Generation” at Science Fair

“This was certainly a once in a lifetime experience, and our team will never forget it.”

Shaking hands with President Obama at the sixth and final White House Science Fair of his administration, Team America Rocketry Challenge (TARC) Team Rock-It of Jordan High School in Durham, North Carolina saw all their hard paying off.

Samantha Armistead, Judy Cheng, Emma Jaynes, Evan Perry and Ryan Hill, all seniors, took a much-deserved victory lap at the White House on Wednesday, showing off a table full of rockets to senior administration officials and VIPs including Bill Nye and NASA Astronaut, Cady Coleman.

The team’s dedication to the TARC program earned them trips to National Finals in 2013 and 2014, where they scored among the top 25 teams in the country, qualifying their school for NASA’s follow-on Student Launch program.
Best of all, it seems all the exposure to rocketry has taken root with the young rocketeers of Team Rock-It. All five intend to pursue education and careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), from aerospace engineering to computer science to chemistry.

“The Science Fair was an amazing experience,” said Emma Jaynes, who intends to study aerospace engineering in college. “Initially, the sheer number of cameras and press was extremely daunting, but as the day went on we all became more comfortable and really enjoyed ourselves.”

Emma and team member Samantha Armistead were interviewed on the White House’s event live stream and did a wonderful job representing the TARC program!

This year’s White House Science Fair focused on students who are “tackling some of our Nation’s greatest challenges… and discovering ways to reach farther beyond our atmosphere as part of the Mars generation,” according to a White House blog.

Through TARC, AIA is cultivating the next generation of scientists and engineers who will land a manned spacecraft on Mars. Over the program’s 14-year history, TARC has inspired more than 60,000 students to interact with rocket science on an approachable – yet still challenging – level.

This year TARC began a partnership with nonprofit, The Mars Generation, to further the programs’ shared mission of exciting young people about STEM education, aerospace careers and space exploration.
“Being able to talk about science to other people who love and understand what we do is a wonderful thing, and the highlight of the day for most of us,” said Emma. “This was certainly a once in a lifetime experience, and our team will never forget it.”

Of course, for others, the real highlight was getting some attention from Bill Nye, who empathized with just how long it takes to sand down the fins of a model rocket!