These kids yawn at your typical roof egg-dropping challenge. Tomorrow, 100 teams will compete in the Team America Rocketry Challenge. The teams are made of three to ten middle and high school students, who have already bested hundreds of other teams from around the country to make it to the D.C.-area competition, where they’ll send handmade rockets into the sky for top-notch prizes.
The Challenge started in 2002 as a celebration of the centennial of aviation, but the response and support was so big, it’s continued annually ever since. The kids register in the fall and spend all year with a teacher-supervisor and a mentor from the National Association of Rocketry to learn the math and physics required to blast up to the required altitude (this year it’s 800 feet), while carrying two raw eggs safely up and back down to Earth.
The top ten teams split $60,000 in cash and scholarships, and are given opportunities with NASA’s Student Launch Initiative and trips to international air shows with member companies from the Challenge’s sponsor, the Aerospace Industries Association.
If you’re in the D.C. area, you can head over to see the teams compete tomorrow during an event that’s part celebration of science, engineering, and nerdery (people have been known to dress up in costume), and part introduction to the competitive world of the aerospace industry. The “Final Flyoff” happens in the Great Meadow at 5089 Old Tavern Road, The Plains, Virginia, just about an hour drive from Washington, D.C. Bring a picnic and watch the launches throughout the day, from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. In between, wander around the exhibition area that will feature aerospace company displays, mini-rocket demos and contests, and college representative to talk about their science and engineering majors. Then see the Rocketry Challenge winners, and very likely the future leaders of the aerospace industry, crowned at 5 p.m.