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Atkins Team America Rocket Challenge "TARC" Rocket Club


This Years 8 Most Memorable Experiences

Quotes From the Team

1.       The Excitement of Improving Scores: during our test flight day the weekend prior to qualification, the weather was absolutely perfect for launching! We had everything set up to where our overall scores went from 25, to 20, to 18, and the weather pattern helped keep our consistently declining scores. We’ve always loved the excitement of improvement, and if we had tried to qualify on that day, we have no doubt we would have qualified for Nationals!

2.       Tapering Our Chutes: when we first started testing, our rocket was staying in the air far too long. We thought about adjusting the weight, but we had a good height on the rocket, so we didn’t want the extra weight to make the rocket go lower. After brainstorming for a minute, Tiffany came up with the idea to taper our parachutes, and although the weather conditions were still unpredictable, there was an improvement in our times. The “eureka” moment with any solution we conjure up is always exciting, and when these ideas turn out the way we expect, it’s even better!

3.       Egg Containers: our team had many different designs for egg packaging this year- some wanted to cut out a package with foam, others wanted to use aerogel- but in the end our team came up with the perfect packaging! We took our eggs and used injected insulation foam to create our egg packaging system, which was a huge success. We did not even break an egg this year!

4.       In the trees: it happens nearly every year- a rocket coasts too far on the wind, and our recovery mission includes a trip up a tree. This year was particularly difficult, because even though this tree was not too tall, it was too young to break and too flexible to climb, and there was a lack of “climbing limbs,” so we had to use our problem solving skills (and lots of patience!) to recover our rocket.

5.       Using tools: over the course of the year, we became more skilled at using the machinery at hand. We became more precise at cutting fins using a band saw and scroll saw. We decreased drag on the rocket by using the belt sander. We also used hand saws to cut body tubes, and we are more careful with those tools now. Over the year we sustained exactly zero (0) injuries.

6.       Engine Hook Dilemma: this one is a memorable experience, but not a pleasant one. Our one disqualification this year was a failure to include an engine hook in our design, thus causing our motor to fall out, a flaw that will not happen again.

7.       Software Use and Design: at the beginning of the year, our team got together and began brainstorming for this year’s rocket. It’s always an awesome time as we bounce off ideas, scratch extraneous ones and come up with a final design! Working on Rocksim to test and apply our knowledge of physics is also exciting, especially when the simulation performs as we expect!

8.       Observations For Next Year: for next year’s TARC team, we are definitely making changes. The first change is that we are hoping to add more members to the team from the freshman class who will be focused and productive, cutting down the time it takes for our team to produce one rocket. Also, we are going to start our designing process earlier in the year.

The goal of the Atkins TARC Rocket CLub is to design, build and launch a rocket that can safely carry one egg and consistently come very close to a specified flight altitude and duration. Doing well requires good design, workmanship, and altitude prediction, which means that students can learn about engineering, aerodynamics, meteorology, and computer simulation from the competition. A team's score is currently the sum of the difference between their altitude and the target altitude and three times the difference between their duration and the target duration; the lower the score, the better. Many teams consistently achieve scores less than 10. 



The TARC competition began in 2003 as a way to mark the 100th anniversary of flight, but due to a high level of interest it became an annual occurrence. It fosters interest in aerospace engineering careers among the participants, and the national Fly-off in May is an opportunity for corporations, universities, and the armed services to attract students. 


The event receives local and national media coverage and usually draws well-known representatives of the Defense Department, NASA, the FAA, and other government agencies. Past Fly-offs have been attended by United States Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin, Rocket Boys author Homer Hickam, and then-NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe, and U.S. Senator Mike Enzi.

The top 10 teams receive a share of $60,000 in scholarship money, and the top 25 teams are invited to submit a proposal for one of 15 spots in NASA's Student Launch Initiative. There are additional awards sponsored by the AIA member corporations in various categories. Starting in 2008, the winners of the U.S. competition have been awarded a trip to either the Paris Air Show or the Farnborough Airshow, courtesy of Raytheon Company, to compete with the winners from other participating countries. The United Kingdom and France currently have similar competitions and compete in the international flyoffs; organizations from Germany, Canada and Japan are in the initial planning stages for starting their own competition.

Team America Rocketry Challenge

In 2012 the Team America Rocketry Challenge (TARC) completed its tenth year of inspiring and attracting 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 55,000 students in the past decade and involved  over 3,000 students in 48 states during the 2012 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 a raw egg (”the astronaut”) without cracking. Each year a unique task is also included; this year we are challenging students to fly their egg horizontally check out the full rules here.

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.