Wisconsin rocketeers fly high in Paris

US champs take second, UK is first in International Rocketry Challenge

A team of Wisconsin students prevailed against 101 teams across 25 states in the TARC National Fly-Off in Virginia. The team then competed in the International Rocketry Challenge at the Paris Air Show on June 21, taking second place.

A team of champion student rocketeers from Wisconsin took flight at the Paris Air Show on June 21, coming in second place in the International Rocketry Challenge. 

The U.K. student team came in first. Teams from France and Japan tied for third.

Apollo 15 astronaut Al Worden, in Paris to help celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing, told the U.S. team that no matter what, they should follow their dreams.

 “We’re going to rely on you to get us a big giant leap ahead," he said.

It was a stellar journey for the team from Madison West High School in Wisconsin, who took the U.S. national championship at the Team America Rocketry Challenge in Virginia on May 18. Their home-built rocket, the Stewart V, bested rockets from the top 101 teams from 25 states in the nationals, winning the $20,000 top prize for its student builders.

“This feels amazing,” said team Captain Jacob Mello shortly after winning the U.S. title. “We really didn’t know each other well at the beginning of the year, but we became friends and pulled together as a team.”

Mello and his team then headed to Europe for the International Rocketry Challenge.

Wisconsin students at the International Rocketry Challenge, Paris Air Show, 2019.
The Wisconsin team of student rocketeers accepts their International Rocketry Challenge second-place medals at the 2019 Paris Air Show. Apollo 15 astronaut Al Worden is at right.

Over the past seventeen years, more than 80,000 students have participated in the Team America Rocketry Competition; but this year, the organizers took the competition to new heights. The 2019 contest honored the 50th anniversary of the Apollo moon landing, with TARC implementing new requirements for the May 18 National Fly-Off.

“Apollo 11 showed what was scientifically possible through teamwork, ingenuity and problem-solving skills,” said Raytheon Chairman and CEO Tom Kennedy. “In their own way, the TARC competitors also learned this valuable lesson. It’s a lesson they can use throughout their studies, and in careers that have the promise to further push the bounds of what’s possible in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.”

At the U.S. Fly-Off, teams were required to design, build, and fly a safe, stable model rocket to an altitude of exactly 856 feet – 8:56 PM, July 20, 1969, Houston time was the moment Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon. 

The student rockets had to be in flight between 43 and 46 seconds, carrying a payload of three raw hen's eggs for Apollo’s three astronauts. The eggs had to be returned to Earth undamaged in a section of the rocket (the “Apollo capsule”) that landed separately from the rocket motors and fins, using two or more parachutes of nearly the same size (Apollo 11 recovered with three).

The idea behind TARC is to have students take the first step toward a career in a STEM field like engineering, jet propulsion or rocket science.

Published On: 05/20/2019
Last Updated: 06/21/2019