Two organizations that teamed to create the world’s largest student rocketry challenge and aerospace education program will receive an award honoring their commitment to aerospace education.
The National Coalition for Aviation and Space Education will recognize the Aerospace Industries Association and the National Association of Rocketry with the Dr. Mervin K. Strickler Aerospace Education Award in 2016.
In 2002, the two associations created the Team America Rocketry Challenge, which became “the world’s largest rocketry-based student aerospace challenge and education program.” The challenge was intended as a one-time model rocketry event, “but by popular demand became an annual program,” according to the challenge’s website.
In 14 years, the challenge has enrolled nearly 9,000 U.S. teams, with more than 50,000 students in grades seven through 12 from all 50 states participating.
The challenge employs a national network of volunteer adult mentors to teach principles of aerospace engineering, with the goal of inspiring students to consider aerospace careers. More than 80 percent of students surveyed said their participation increased their interest in pursuing science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) courses of study, the coalition said.
The top U.S. team competes in an international championship held each year at the Paris or Farnborough airshows. This year the international competition was won by a team of seven students from the Russellville City Schools of Russellville, Alabama, sponsored by Raytheon.
The National Coalition for Aviation and Space Education represents government, industry, and labor in promoting aviation education activities and resources. It established the award in 1995 to honor Strickler “and recognize individuals or organizations sharing his personal commitment and lifelong contributions to aerospace education,” the organization said in its announcement.
“Dr. Strickler promoted aerospace education for more than 55 years and is considered the ‘father’ of aerospace education,” it said.
“We are honored for the TARC program to be recognized by the Dr. Mervin K. Strickler, Jr. Aerospace Education Leadership Award,” said Aerospace Industries Association President David F. Melcher. “We are extremely grateful for our partnership with the National Association of Rocketry, the contributions of our industry sponsors, and the hundreds of volunteer mentors who work with students across the country. Together we are demonstrating to tomorrow’s workforce that a career in our industry will provide remarkable opportunities to work on challenging and rewarding programs.”
Trip Barber, co-founder of the challenge and the National Association of Rocketry’s manager of the event, added that the challenge “is about paying forward to youth of the next generation so that they can share our passion for aerospace and be inspired to pursue studies and careers that will sustain America’s global technological leadership position in the field.”