Now in its fourteenth year theTeam America Rocketry Challenge (TARC) has helped to build 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 60,000 students and involved 4,000 students in 48 states during the 2015 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 raw eggs (”the astronaut”) without cracking. Each year a unique task is also included; this year we are challenging those students who win a spot at the National Finals to be able to fly their rockets to two separate altitudes. The target flight heights will differ between the first and second flight.
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.