By Lena Ashooh
Dark Matter, a team of seventh- and eighth-graders from Shelburne Community School, has qualified to compete in the national finals of the 15th annual Team America Rocketry Challenge. As the only team with qualifying scores in Vermont, Dark Matter will face 99 of the top rocketry contenders from across the country to claim the title of national champion. The TARC Final Fly-Off will take place May 13 at the Great Meadow in The Plains, Va., outside of Washington, D.C.
TARC is the aerospace and defense industry’s flagship program designed to encourage students to pursue study and careers in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). The competition challenges middle and high school students to design, build and fly a rocket that meets specific altitude and flight duration parameters. This year’s rules require a rocket carrying one raw egg to reach 775 feet before returning the egg to Earth, uncracked, all within 41 to 43 seconds. One of Dark Matter’s qualification flights was an amazing 774 feet with a landing time of 43.08 seconds.
With Bob Gurwicz, a fourth-grade teacher at Shelburne Community School as their mentor, this is the second year that Dark Matter has competed for a spot in the national finals. Many of Dark Matter’s teammates have built and launched rockets as young as in third grade, under Bob’s guidance and encouragement.
Dark Matter will compete for more than $100,000 in prizes and scholarships, and the opportunity to represent the United States at the International Rocketry Challenge taking place at the Paris Air Show in June. At the international fly-off, teams from the United Kingdom, France, and Japan will face the U.S. champions for the international title.
Sponsored by the Aerospace Industries Association, the National Association of Rocketry and more than 20 industry partners, TARC is the world’s largest rocket contest. Now in its 15th year, TARC has inspired more than 65,000 middle and high school students to explore education and careers in STEM fields. This year, 812 teams representing 48 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands designed and built model rockets in hopes of qualifying for the National Finals. For more information about TARC 2017, please visit www.rocketcontest.org.