The Team America Rocketry Challenge (TARC) is an annual national completion between student teams in grades seven through twelve. Teams design rockets that must pass the challenge requirements, which change every year. Based on their qualifying test results, the top hundred teams go to Washington DC to compete at the national level. The winning team then goes to Europe to participate in the International Rocketry Challenge at either the Farnborough or Paris Air Show.
For 2017, the requirements are that each rocket flies to 775 feet, encloses a raw egg, and returns the egg to the ground without damage within 41 to 43 seconds.
On its Twitter profile, the Odle Rocketry Club describes itself as a place “Where every Odle student has the opportunity to learn rocketry…work in a safe, fun & collaborative environment…share our enthusiasm for rocketry & learning.” Staff coaches Mr. Williams and Mr. Petoskey help guide the students in the design and engineering process, but leave the students to learn through their own experimentation.
The students fervently agree that rocketry is fun and exciting; common advice ranges from the best structure for aerodynamic stability to “Never touch wet epoxy”. Advanced technological learning abounds in TARC; students discover not only the nuances of rocket design as well as practical innovations such as the “egg pillow”, a cylindrical under-stuffed bean bag that cushions and secures eggs on the table.
Rocketry teaches valuable life skills as well. The Space Ramen team had to redesign their transition, the piece that connected the top and bottom parts of the rocket, 17 times to get reliable results. As their team captain Meghnath Dey said, “It’s all just persistence and teamwork. You can’t just give up just because you’re in a hard spot. Communication is huge.”
Engineering tasks emphasize consistency and practical tips. As Neha, one of the students in TARC, said, “When you’re trying something, you should test it out first.” It’s always a good strategy to follow no matter what task is at hand.
A huge consideration for TARC members is that one of the Odle teams last year, the Space Potatoes, won the internationals at London. “At the start it felt intimidating . . .That’s a lot of pressure on us. We also learned that [the Space Potatoes] could help us and give us hints. We learned a lot from them,” said Meghnath Dey.
All of the teams hope to get invited to the TARC nationals, which are on May 12-13. Most of the students, however, are content with their personal learning and experience that the Odle TARC club brought. As Anshita Saini, the team captain of Spaced Out Sushi, summarized, “I feel lucky.”