Teen rocketeers launch into 2016 competitions

Student-built rockets waiting for launch. Credit: Team America Rocketry Challenge

Things are heating up as teams of junior rocket scientists across the United States, Britain, France, and Japan begin the qualifying rounds for their nations’ educational rocketry competitions. The national champions will compete head-to-head at the International Rocketry Challenge during the Farnborough International Airshow.

The Team America Rocketry Challenge (Tarc) is the world’s largest rocket contest. A press release from the Aerospace Industry Association reports that the contest has attracted a diverse pool of young rocketeers - including 43 all-girl teams. Secondary school students across the country have formed 789 teams to design, build and launch model rockets. The rockets must carry two raw eggs 850 feet into the sky and return them to Earth safely within 46 seconds. Easier said than done. The students must apply their classroom physics theory with hands-on engineering skills to design rockets that can do this in a range of weather conditions. Regional qualifiers will reduce the field to 100 teams which will compete at the national championship near Washington, DC. Follow the American teens’ progress on twitter and facebook.

Alabama is expected to have a strong presence at this year’s finals. The University of Northern Alabama's rocketry workshops and mentoring sessions are helping teams across Alabama. It will host the state’s Tarc regional qualifiers this month. “When I put out the word about what we were doing, I was overwhelmed,” UNA science specialist Lee Brownell said in a press release issued earlier this year, “we have about 23 teams registered and there are only 37 teams statewide.” 

Alabama's championship rocketeers took the national title in 2015 and went on to win the world championships at the International Rocketry Challenge in France. Credit: Team America Rocketry Challenge

Alabama only fielded 16 teams last year, but it only takes one. Russellville High School’s engineering club fielded a team of seven boys and girls launched their way through regional qualifiers to win the national championships and traveled to France to win last year’s International Rocketry Challenge at the Paris Air Show. Even though these teen rocketry veterans have moved on to compete in Nasa’s Student Launch Initiative, they are paying it forward by mentoring Alabama teams in this year’s Tarc contest.

Teens in the United Kingdom are putting the final touches on their rockets before next month’s UK Aerospace Youth Rocketry Challenge (Ukayroc) regional qualifiers. The country’s aerospace industry association, ADS Group, has begun a final push to recruit British schools into the competition before this week’s registration deadline (Gainsborough Standard). Last year’s UK champions, James Hornsby School’s Team Terminator, won in their rookie year as rocketeers and went on to place second at the International Rocketry Challenge.

Planète Sciences organizes extra-curricular science and technology activities for French youth - including model rocketry. It joined the International Rocketry Challenge in 2010 to enhance French students’ experience. This year’s regional qualifiers began over the weekend. A report on Essone Info explains how teens at a Planète Science chapter near Paris are using 3D printers to develop their rocket. Follow the French students’ progress on twitter and facebook.