Alabama Captures 2024 National ARC Championship

Tharptown High School from Russellville, Alabama, won first place and earned the title of National Champion at the world’s largest rocketry competition, the American Rocketry Challenge, at The Plains, Virginia. Tharptown bested a record-breaking 922 teams that entered the competition at the start of the year and the top 100 teams competing at National Finals on Sunday, May 19, designing, building, and launching a model rocket with greater precision than any other team in the country.

Tharptown High School students will take home $20,000 and will represent the United States in the International Rocketry Challenge at the Farnborough Air Show, outside London, in July. Muscle Shoals High School came in fifth and won $8500. Huntsville’s John Paul II High School did not make the cut to the second round.

“We all work together as a team and come together to give input,” said Kylee Beard, Tharptown High School’s team captain. “We have one senior on our team, one sophomore, and the rest of us are juniors, so we’re looking forward to success in the years ahead.”

Tharptown High School has become a rocketry powerhouse, sending a team to the National Finals six times since the program started in 2018. Tharptown High School has now placed in the top 10 four times, including a second-place finish last year and tenth in 2022. The team is mentored by Andrew Heath, who was the team captain of the Russellville City Schools team that won the International Rocketry Challenge in 2015. Tharptown’s win marks the second Alabama and Russellville National ARC Championship.

The team’s victory follows months of preparation designing, building, and testing a rocket capable of meeting rigorous mission parameters set by the contest’s sponsors – the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA), National Association of Rocketry, and more than 20 industry partners. To qualify for the finals, each team designed, built, and launched a model rocket that safely carried one large hen egg to an altitude of 820 feet, stays airborne for between 43 and 46 seconds, and returns the rocket to the ground safely. At the National Finals, a Friday night coin flip determined that competing teams had to launch the rockets to 850 feet with a flight duration of 43-46 seconds in the first round of competition. The top 24 teams conducted a second launch that was required to reach 800 feet with a flight duration of 43-46 seconds. For the first time in ARC history Saturday was rained out and the launch was held the next day.

Now in its 22nd year, the American Rocketry Challenge has inspired nearly 95,000 middle and high school students to date to explore education and careers in STEM fields. “Twenty-one years ago, I walked on the same field as these competitors, preparing my home-built rocket for flight,” said NASA Astronaut Woody Hoburg present for the launch. “These competitions are catalysts for innovation, challenging young explorers to collaborate and get their hands dirty building a real flight vehicle. Congratulations to all the National Finalists for their ingenuity, hard work, and perseverance. These skills will serve students for years to come, as they embark on their careers and create technologies to solve the world’s biggest challenges.”


ARC 2024 Alabama Team Final Results

Place   Team      City     State           Flight 1 Flight 2 Total

1    Tharptown High School   Russellville  AL     3      1   4

2    Spring Grove  School    Spring Grove  PA     5    2  7

3    AIAA Orange County  Team 1    Irvine  CA     7.32      6.72      14.04

4    Festus High School         Festus      MO    9     13          22

5    Muscle Shoals Team 1  Muscle Shoals AL   8.28   15.32  23.6

27   St. John Paul II      Huntsville                  AL     23

38   Russellville High School   Russellville                AL     34.4

55   Lawrence County High School Moulton       AL     51.64

70   Muscle Shoals Team 2   Muscle Shoals            AL     73.56

98   Thompson High School    Alabaster        AL     DNF

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