The Team America Rocketry Competition (TARC) is the world’s largest student rocket competition. Students are required to design, construct and fly their own rockets. This academic challenge draws an estimated 5000 students each year; with the top 100 teams invited to compete in the National Finals, in Washington DC. Being such a high-octane competition, there are always some exceptional performances. If you're interested in rockets and the next generation of aerospace engineers, you'll want to follow the students in this competition. Get your free ICS account to stay up on all the action in TARC and over 450 other educational competitions!

Each year, new innovative designs are brought to the table in the Team America Rocketry Challenge. So we thought it would be interesting to review placements from the past 10 years to bring you our top five most interesting TARC rocketry performances.

#5. “Most Unlikely Victor” - Madison West High School Team 3 (2009):

When Madison West High School from Madison, Wisconsin pulled their rocket out of its bag, everyone thought the same thing - no way that will get off the ground! It was the most cumbersome, and clunky rocket of the year. Weighing in at a whopping 1310 grams, no one had high hopes for this whale-like Rolls-Royce of the sky. However, all in attendance were forced to eat their humble pie and watch in amazement as Madison West's beast effortlessly soared to an average height of 745 feet in an average time 42 and a half seconds. Their final score of 20.54 saw them take away gold in the most unlikely of victories!

#4. “Biggest Missed Opportunity” - Team FOXTROT (2015):

Whether it be the Superbowl or the America’s Cup, every highlight reel from the sporting archives has one of those moments where athletes or teams flounder at the crucial moment. The TARC final of 2015 was no exception. Team FOXTROT, from Ingraham High School, Seattle, Washington had achieved an almost unbeatable first flight score of 1.00 (the lower the score the better). That score was significantly better than any competitor and a second flight remotely close to that would ensure victory. However, flight two was essentially a disaster. With a score of 36.00, Team FOXTROT fell from grace and an almost assured first place trophy to third position; allowing Russellville City School, from Russellville, Alabama to take gold. One lesson to take home from this - its never over till its over.

#3. “Best Come Back” – Enloe High School Team 2 (2008).

We can’t talk about the biggest missed opportunities without talking about the fairy tale comeback story. Such a story came out of the 2008 final. After flight one, Enloe High School Team 2, from Raleigh, North Carolina seemed to be well off the pace with a flight one score of 17.64. This put them in 14th position after round one. Statistically speaking, it seemed impossible that Enloe High School Team 2 would get on the podium. However, they totally blew all statistical and expert predictions out of the water with an unbelievable second flight, that scored 6.30. To put that into perspective, the next closest flight 2 score was 14.26. Enloe High School Team 2 finished with gold, well clear of the second place team. The showed how a little determination can turn even the worst situations around.

#2. “Flying the State Flag” - Creekview High School Team 1 (2014):

Creekview High School Team 1 is a team that is firmly fixed in the minds of adoring fans from the state of Georgia. From 2008 to 2014, a team from Georgia had only placed in the top ten once; with Lambert High School Team 2 from Suwanee, Georgia finishing in tied second place in 2011. Consequently, no one really had high hopes for any of the Georgian teams in the 2014 finals, or any after that for that matter. However, spectators were stunned as Creekview High School Team 1, from Canton, Georgia took first place in 2014 with an outstanding final score of 14.88. There was only one other team from the state of Georgia that finished in the top 50 that year. Incidentally, that team finished 49th and were also from Canton, Georgia. Just because it hasn't been done before, or at least not in a long time, doesn't mean it can't happen now!

#1. “From the Ashes” - Festus High School (2017)

Number one on our ‘Top Five TARC Performances’ fittingly goes to the TARC 2017 National and World Champions - Festus High School from Festus, Missouri. The past decade of competition had been a series of ups and downs for Festus High School. Having finished 2nd in 2009, 8th in 2011 and 3rd in 2012, Festus High School seemed to be on a winning trajectory and would surely soon be national champions. However, a 13th place in 2014 took the wind out of their sails. Then having not even entered or qualified for the national finals in both 2015 and 2016, it seemed Festus High School’s glory days were over. That was, of course, until their stunning performance in this year’s final, with an exceptional podium topping score of 13.36. Not only that, Festus High School also took home gold at the International Final in Paris. Certainly, an amazing tale of tenacity and determination and rising from the ashes.

Get in the Arena.

So that’s it for this round of our ‘Top Five TARC Performances Over the Last Decade.’ What will the 2018 season bring? One thing we can count on is more stellar performances, so stay tuned. Don't forget to stay up on all the action from TARC, other rocketry competitions, and over 450 student challenges with your free ICS account! If you're not in the arena yet, signup today!