Wanna Build A Rocket? Wanna Win A Prize For Building A Rocket?

by / Tuesday, 24 September 2013 / Published in Blog - Space Log



Team America Rocketry Challenge


The Team America Rocketry Challenge (TARC) is the world’s largest rocket contest, sponsored by the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) and the National Association of Rocketry (NAR). It was created in the fall of 2002 as a one-time celebration of the Centennial of Flight, but the enthusiasm about the event was so great that AIA and NAR were asked to hold the contest annually.

Approximately 7,000 students from across the nation compete in TARC each year. Teams design, build and fly a model rocket that reaches a specific altitude and duration determined by a set of rules developed each year. The contest is designed to encourage students to study math and science and pursue careers in aerospace.

The top 100 teams, based on local qualification flights, are invited to Washington, DC in May for the national finals. Prizes include $60,000 in cash and scholarships split between the top 10 finishers. NASA invites top teams to participate in their Student Launch Initiative, an advanced rocketry program. AIA member companies, such as Lockheed Martin and Raytheon have sponsored additional prizes such as scholarship money and a trip to an international air show.

In 2012 the Team America Rocketry Challenge (TARC) completed its tenth year of inspiring and attracting the next generation of engineers and technicians to join the aerospace industry. The Aerospace Industries Association’s signature program and the only aerospace-specific national STEM competition, TARC has reached over 55,000 students in the past decade and involved  over 3,000 students in 48 states during the 2012 season alone.

An extra-curricular hands-on project-based learning program, the TARC competition is modeled around the aerospace industry’s design, fabrication and testing processes.  All students participate in a team of 3-10 students to design, build, and fly a rocket. Like aerospace companies work within specific design parameters, every year the challenge requires teams to achieve the same basic mission-oriented goals of hitting a precise altitude, landing within a specific flight time window, and returning a raw egg (”the astronaut”) without cracking. Each year a unique task is also included; this year we are challenging students to fly their egg horizontally check out the full rules here.

TARC gives students opportunities to apply their math and science skills to a real world project outside of the classroom.  For many students, this experience yields their first significant personal realization of how what they are learning in school is relevant to endeavors that are fun, challenging, and represent potential future career pathways.  Through TARC, students have discovered that they enjoy solving math and science problems in the context of resolving difficult and complex design issues.  Often TARC is also their first exposure to the aerospace industry.  They learn what aerospace engineers and skilled technical workers do and what it takes to become one of those professionals.

A recent survey of TARC alumni showed that exposure to aerospace through TARC is having a positive impact on students’ career choices, as 81% of past participants plan to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and/or math. Seven out of ten past participants said that they are a least somewhat likely to pursue a career in aeronautic or aerospace engineering. 2012 TARC finalist Tashi Atruktsang recently put into words the impact the TARC program can have saying, “This is life changing. I think this has significantly changed my career choice. Before I wanted to be a doctor, but for sure now I want to be an aeronautic engineer.”