World’s Biggest Rocket Competition Gears for Launch

The world’s largest rocket contest is kicking off this fall, and aspiring student scientists and engineers are encouraged to participate. Registration for the Team America Rocketry Challenge (TARC) is now open for groups in grades 7-12 through December 4.

TARC is the U.S. aerospace and defense industry’s forerunning program created to boost students to follow careers in science, technology, engineering and math. “Increasing the number of students that take STEM courses and pursue STEM-related degrees and careers is a critical need for the aerospace industry.  Sparking student interest in studying STEM is the entire reason for our industry to hold the Team America Rocketry Challenge.  It’s a great opportunity for students to gain hands-on experience designing, building and launching rockets, learning from their failures and celebrating their successes,” AIA spokesman Dan Stohr said in a statement to Article Cats.

The program imitates the real-life aerospace industry’s fabrication, testing and design development process and requires that TARC teams construct and implement a model rocket that meets the parameters and specific targets of flight duration and altitude.

TARC’s scoring and regulation system changes each year in order to stimulate the participants’ inventiveness and spur new, fresh ways to design a rocket. This year’s rules demand that students build and launch a rocket holding two raw eggs—placed perpendicularly to each other—850 feet up and return them to Earth unscathed within 44 to 46 seconds. Broken eggs will mean an immediate disqualification.

The top 100 teams from across the nation will be allowed to compete in the National Finals in Washington D.C. in the spring. Those that win the competition will represent the United States in the International Rocketry Challenge at Farnborough International Airshow near London in July, battling against student teams from the United Kingdom and France.

So what sets TARC apart from other similar rocket contests? According to Stohr,“This contest is different from any other in the world in a couple of ways. First, it’s the world’s largest rocket contest, with 700 teams from all 50 states and several U.S. territories competing for one of the top 100 slots at the national finals.  Second, industry involvement is remarkable, with more than 20 companies directly sponsoring the contest, and countless engineers and technicians acting as mentors and advisers for the student teams. Finally, the winners of the national finals each year are flown to Europe courtesy of Raytheon Company to participate in the International Rocketry Challenge against teams from France and the United Kingdom at the Paris and Farnborough International Airshows. It’s a truly unique opportunity.”

Last year, the U.S. took home the gold at the Paris Air Show on June 19. Team America was sponsored by Raytheon (NYSE: RTN), and  defeated teams from the United Kingdom, who came in second place, and France, who took home the bronze. The American team consisted of seven students from the Russellville City Schools of Russellville, Alabama. “It was a great experience representing the United States and winning the international rocketry competition,” said Andrew Heath, captain of the RCS Engineers. “It has been an honor to be part of my team and this year’s program.”


“Athena-1” launches from Kodiak Island, Alaska. Courtesy of Wikipedia

NASA, the Department of Defense, the American Association of Physics Teachers, the Aerospace Industries Association, the National Association of Rocketry and various AIA member corporations are sponsoring the TARC rocket contest. For more information, visit

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Zara Zhi
Zara Zhi
Zara is a freelance writer and filmmaker who has worked for numerous magazines and news sites. When not coming up with puns or writing screenplays, she enjoys having blind children read to her and donating plasma TVs. Follow her on Twitter: @zarazhi