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669 Teams of Student Rocketeers In Team America Rocketry Challenge Finals

Contest Aims To Boost Interest In Space, Technical Fields

Students on 669 teams from 45 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands are preparing to launch their hand-designed rockets in the world's largest rocket contest ... the eighth annual Team America Rocketry Challenge.

Sponsored by the Aerospace Industries Association, the National Association of Rocketry and more than 30 industry partners, with participation by NASA, the Defense Department and the American Association of Physics Teachers, the contest is designed to boost the industry workforce by sparking interest in science, math and engineering education among middle and high school students.

The aerospace industry faces a workforce challenge as more than 20 percent of the industry becomes eligible to retire by 2013. Not enough students are entering aerospace engineering programs, potentially leaving thousands of critical defense and other sector positions unfilled as professionals retire.

This year's challenge is for each 3- to 10-member team to design and build a model rocket that carries a single raw egg payload to a precise altitude of 825 feet with a flight duration of between 40 and 45 seconds, returning the egg to the ground unbroken. The 100 teams with the best qualifying scores submitted by April 5 compete at the finals at Great Meadow in The Plains, VA, near Washington, D.C. on May 15,

In a 2009 survey among team members, 70 percent said they became more interested in a STEM career as a result of TARC. For example, contest alumnus Lieutenant (j.g.) Jerry Maniscalco graduated from the Naval Academy with an aerospace engineering degree in 2007, and is now piloting Seahawk helicopters in Jacksonville, FL.

"Each student has a critical role in designing their team's rocket, and they learn to appreciate how engineering is both exciting and mentally challenging," said Maniscalco. "TARC is exactly what set me on the educational path to become an aerospace engineer."

The total purse for the contest is $60,000 in scholarships and prizes. Raytheon Company pays for the winning team to attend a "fly-off" at the Farnborough International Air Show near London in July against teams from the UK and France.

Founded in 1919, the Aerospace Industries Association represents the nation's leading manufacturers and suppliers of civil, military, and business aircraft, helicopters, unmanned aerial systems, space systems, aircraft engines, materiel, and related components, equipment services, and information technology.

FMI: www.rocketcontest.org

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