Countless hours spent designing, hand-building and testing model rockets has paid off for 100 teams that will be vying for the sixth annual Team American Rocketry Challenge national title next month.
The Aerospace Industries Association announced the finalists for the world's largest rocket contest Friday. The teams will meet at Great Meadow in The Plains, Va., on May 17 for a final fly-off and a chance to win more than $60,000 in scholarships and other prizes.
About 7,000 students on 643 teams from 43 states and the District of Columbia took part in the qualifying rounds of competition.
The contest presents teams with a dual challenge. Teams must launch their rocket as close as possible to an altitude of 750 feet with a flight time of 45 seconds. The payload of two raw eggs must return to the ground unbroken.
Teams had until April 7 to submit qualifying scores, which were achieved by launching the rocket in their home region under the supervision of a judge from the National Association of Rocketry, AIAs co-sponsor of the contest. The competition is also sponsored by NASA, the Defense Department, the American Association of Physics Teachers and 34 AIA member companies.
AIA created the Team America Rocketry Challenge in 2003 to celebrate the centennial of flight and to generate interest in aerospace careers among young people. The aerospace and defense sector is bracing for a workforce crisis over the next decade as the scientists and engineers lured to the industry by the space race and the Cold War hit retirement and not enough qualified young Americans take their place. Almost 60 percent of the U.S. aerospace workforce is 45 or older, according to statistics compiled by AIA last year.
The aerospace industry offers a variety of career opportunities, from building space vehicles to designing state-of-the-art fighter aircraft to planning future commercial jetliners. Whether in engineering, production, testing or integration, aerospace careers are challenging and unique.
As a major supporter of the Team America Rocketry Challenge, Raytheon Company is sponsoring the winning teams trip to a major international air show for the third consecutive year this year. Last year, Raytheon took the winning team to the Paris Air Show, and members of this year's winning team will go to the Farnborough International Air Show near London in July. There they will compete in an international fly-off with the winner of the British version of the Team America Rocketry Challenge.
Lockheed Martin Corporation will provide $5,000 scholarships to each of the top three teams again this year, and NASA invites some of the top teams to participate in their Student Launch Initiative, an advanced rocketry program.
AIA President and CEO Marion Blakey said the participating middle and high school students once again proved themselves to be both enthusiastic and creative, an encouraging sign as the aerospace industry faces a looming workforce shortage.
"I'm pleased to see such a committed group of finalists," Blakey said. "I'm looking forward to seeing these teams compete next month, but I'm even more excited to see what their futures hold. We're seeing here firsthand the faces of the future innovators for our industry."
For more information about TARC, including details on how to sponsor a team or to apply for press credentials for the finals, visit www.rocketcontest.org.