May 18, 2009 at 11:38 PM ET
Aerospace Industries Assn.
|Wisconsin's Madison West High School |
rocket team prepares for liftoff during the
Team America Rocketry Challenge.
NASA's final mission to the Hubble Space Telescope has thrown a spotlight on the best and the brightest in space exploration, but next-generation space explorers are getting opportunities to shine as well.
One of those opportunities came over the weekend in Virginia, during the final round of the Team America Rocketry Challenge, an annual contest sponsored by the Aerospace Industries Association and the National Association of Rocketry.
Thousands of students from hundreds of schools across the country participated in fly-offs that involved blasting an egg-laden rocket at least 750 feet into the air and returning it safely to the earth. The rocket launches are rated based on their altitude and time aloft, and the top 100 regional qualifiers advanced to the final competition Saturday at The Plains, Va.
A team from Madison West High School in Wisconsin came away with the winning score and the top prize. "Hard work, perseverance, teamwork and custom electronics are the reasons our rocket performed well today," team member Ben Winokur said in a news release. The winning edge included "a very intricate active parachute ejection on ascent," he said.
Marion Blakey, the AIA's president and CEO as well as the former head of the Federal Aviation Administration, said the contest succeeded in its goal of spurring young people to consider careers in aerospace and advancing their studies in science, technology, engineering and math. "This is an encouraging sign that there is a promising pipeline of future employees for our industry," she said.
The payoff for the kids will include a trip to the Paris Air Show in June, plus a share of more than $60,000 in prizes. Among the sponsors are Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, the Defense Department, the American Association of Physics Teachers and 34 AIA member companies.
Madison West's team also participated in a friendly fly-off with the winners of the U.K. Aerospace Youth Rocketry Challenge, or UKAYRoC. In this competition, the British kids from the Royal Liberty School in Essex walked away as the winners.
"We're amazed that we can call ourselves world champions," British team captain Lewis Marr said in an AIA announcement. "The team worked hard for six months, and it feels great to be so successful."
For the American side, there's always next year. Or maybe you don't have to wait till next year. Here are some additional opportunities for kids who'd like to take on a real-life star trek: