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Team USA Wins World Rocket Contest With Launch Over Paris

Team USA, winner of this year's International Rocketry Competition at the Paris Air Show, receive their medals from Pierre Bourlot, managing director of the French aerospace industries association.

The youths – members of a 4H club from Georgetown, Texas – and their egg-carrying rocket bested the national champion teams of France and Britain, which came in second and third, respectively. Raytheon sponsored the U.S. team’s trip to Europe after they won the U.S. title on May 11.

French President Francois Hollande greeted the teams after their launches at the Paris Air Show, and organizers presented the U.S. rocketeers with medals and a crystal trophy in a chalet near the flight line. Shirley Janecka, mother of two of the team members, said her sons were confident they would win.

“They said for Mother’s Day they’re going to take me to Paris. They said for Father’s Day they’re going to win first in the world,” Janecka said. “They dream big; they did it.”

The U.S. model rocketry team meets French President Francois Hollande.

The three-member team consists of brothers Mark Janecka, 13; his brother Matthew, 17; and teammate Daniel Kelton.

The teams launched their rockets into a rainy sky during a break in the flying at Le Bourget Airport. The U.S. rocket reached 703 feet, 47 feet short of the target altitude of 750 feet.

“It was short -- but it worked, apparently,” Kelton said. He said the longer launch rail used in international competition had slowed down the rocket’s ascent.

“And the rain, especially, didn’t help anything,” Kelton said. "It makes the air a lot denser, and the rocket gets wet."

However, the U.S. team’s flight time made up for the lower flight. Their flight lasted 49.18 seconds, falling within the contest target of 48 to 50 seconds.

The American team's rocket streaks into the sky over Paris during the International Rocketry Challenge.

The contest is the culmination of three separate, national competitions – the Team America Rocketry Challenge (TARC), UKAYRoC and the French Rocketry Challenge. Each contest brings together teams of middle and high school students to design, build and launch model rockets in hopes of inspiring young minds to become engaged in science, technology, engineering and math.

On Friday the rockets carried a raw egg placed horizontally. The egg had to return to the ground, undamaged, by parachute. The teams were penalized for each foot off the target altitude or second off the target time.

The students also gave an eight-minute presentation on their rocket design to a panel of international judges at Raytheon’s air show headquarters. The judges’ score counted for 40 percent of their total score.

Raytheon’s sponsorship is part of the company’s broad-based MathMovesU® initiative to encourage students to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math.

Mark Janecka said the contest had inspired him to study aeronautical engineering. After the win he thanked Raytheon for the company’s support.

“They treated me well,” he said. “They gave me an iPad Mini, and these great jackets -- and an amazing trip to Paris.”

The contest was organized and sponsored by the Aerospace Industries Association of America; ADS, the UK Aerospace, Defense, Security and Space association; and Groupement des Industries Francaises Aeronautiques et Spatiales, the French aerospace industries association.

Published: 11/11/2014

Last Updated: 02/27/2015

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