The El Paso County 4-H TARC team ended their year with a “Successful Year” celebration!
The 4-H team may not have made it into the top 100 for the 2012 Finals, but they still had a very successful year! Hannah Pullen, 15, 9th grader at Mesa Ridge HS in Fountain-Widefield and member of the 4-H Wildcats club, was the team’s project manager for the year and also served as the material acquisition lead. Samuel Pullen, 17, 10th grader at Mesa Ridge HS, also a member of the 4-H Wildcats club, served as the team’s construction lead. Casey Everett, 14, 8th grader at Patriot Learning Center in Falcon and a member of the Plainsmen 4-H club, served as the team’s rules keeper and flight operations lead. And Silas Graff, 14, 9th grader at Palmer Ridge HS and member of the Mt. Herman General 4-H club, served as the team’s design lead, launch operations lead and data recorder.
TARC is Team America Rocket Challenge, a national youth rocket contest developed by Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) and the National Association of Rocketry (NAR). It is designed for students in 7th through 12th grades, and poses a different challenge every year. AIA’s primary goal for this program is to encourage youth to consider future college and career fields in aerospace and engineering. Between AIA and NAR, they make this contest event a real challenge for youth, and in doing so, the rewards are pretty awesome, too, with over $60,000 worth of prizes and scholarships, and the opportunity for the winner to compete against our international cousins in Europe and to attend the international air show while there.
This year’s Challenge was for the teams to design, build and launch a rocket that will fly to 800 feet exactly, with a flight duration of 43-47 seconds while carrying two raw hen’s eggs, which must be recovered without any cracks. The rocket’s gross liftoff weight must be no more than 650 grams, and the rocket motor’s total impulse was limited to 80 N-sec. Students need to know how to build a well-constructed rocket and be able to figure out how thrust, total impulse, weight and drag all relate to flight performance. Many learn how to use a computer simulation program to test the performance of the rockets they design before launching their prototypes.
Setting goals, maintaining a schedule, dividing up responsibilities, managing a budget and giving presentations to potential sponsors and donors are also challenges that teams learn to work through. Coming from different directions of the county, scheduling times and making arrangements for travel to the launch site and meeting place was especially challenging for the parents of the 4-H team! Adult supervisors and mentors, as well as the parents, may help in some of these aspects, but the designing, building and launching of the TARC rockets are solely the responsibilities of the team members.
The El Paso County 4-H TARC team started their TARC season in October of 2011 and held weekly meetings every Friday night planning their strategies, researching and developing ideas, simulating rockets and building rockets. They started conducting launches in December and flew as often as the weather and the condition of their rockets would allow them to. They collected flight data on every rocket flight and brought that back to their Friday meetings for discussion and simulation. Rocket parts would be repaired and adjustments made, so they can be ready to launch again. The team performed nearly 30 actual rocket flights with only two or three failed flights, and they zoned in on their goals; time came to conduct qualification flights.
Each TARC team is permitted three qualification flights. But in order for a team to have three qualification flights, one of those flights must be performed before March 1st. A NAR member not associated with the TARC team must observe each qualification flight attempt, record the total flight time, verify the altitude, and check the eggs for any damage. After March 1st, each team is permitted only two qualification flights. All TARC scores from around the nation were required to be turned in by midnight, EST, on April 2nd. Try to imagine what it is like to schedule a launch and then have it scrubbed due to winds over 20 mph, or flying in warm air with thermals catching your parachute. Getting the right launch conditions is in itself a challenge! Fortunately, the El Paso County 4-H TARC team was able to get all three qualification flights in, with their best score coming in at “19.” A perfect qualification score would be “0.”
The TARC contest is in its tenth year of competition, and this year set an all-time record low cutoff score of “13.2”! AIA reports that they received 716 qualification flight reports from 409 teams from around the nation, which represents only 60 percent of the teams that initially registered for TARC this year. The top twenty alternate teams were then selected after the top 100 finalists were chosen, and the cutoff for those teams was “16.7”; a tough qualifying year! The top 100 team finalists represent 29 states plus the US Virgin Islands. Only one TARC team out of the eleven teams registered from the state of Colorado qualified for the Finals, and that team is from Colorado Springs’ Cheyenne Mountain Charter Academy.
Trip Barber, president of NAR and NAR TARC manager, stated the following: “Building a complex rocket with two eggs as its payload and making it fly correctly is not easy, and any team that achieved this result was fully successful in meeting the educational goals of TARC.” There were five TARC teams total from Colorado Springs and El Paso County, and all five teams had a successful year! Congratulations to all and best luck to CMCA’s 7th grade team at the Finals!
The El Paso County 4-H TARC team would like to give special thanks to their supporters: New Generation Homes for providing a safe launch area for the TARC teams to use for their flight tests, COSROCS for their mentoring and launch support, and to the team’s financial contributors: 4-H Foundation; Analytical Graphics, Inc.; United Launch Alliance; Claire Boynton with The Platinum Group, Realtors; Dr. Greg Elder; Mr. & Mrs. Gary Davis with Schmidt Aggregates; Mr. & Mrs. John Fitzgerald; Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Luksic; Mr. & Mrs. Ray LaPanse; and Anonymous donor.
To learn more about the TARC program, check out one of these websites: http://www.nar.org and select “Team America,” http://www.rocketcontest.org, or https://www2.aia-aerospace.org/tarc/. And to learn more about the 4-H program in El Paso County, check out http://elpasoco.colostate.edu/ and select “4-H/Youth.”