The state was made proud May 20 at the world’s largest student rocketry competition as Alabama teams from Russellville and Huntsville came in second and third out of 100 teams from across the country competing at the American Rocketry Challenge. More than 4,500 students from nearly 800 teams in 45 states entered the 2023 competition which held the finals at The Plains, Va. The Hardin Valley Academy Team from Knoxville, Tenn. was crowned National Champion. They will get $20,000 for the team, $1,000 for the school and a trip to the International Rocketry Challenge at the Paris Air Show in June. Tharpstown in 2nd Place will receive $15,000 for the team, $1,000 for the school and 3rd place John Paul II will get $12,500 for the team, $1,000 for the school.
The Tharptown team is shown in pink shirts, John Paul II in blue shirts.
Competing teams had to launch the rockets to 875 feet with a flight duration of 43-46 seconds in the first round of competition. The top 42 teams conducted a second launch that was required to reach exactly 825 feet with a flight duration of 41-44 seconds. All nine Alabama teams present at the finals made the cut to move forward to the second round. California was the next most having seven teams advance out of the 15 attending from their state. They did have a group from Orange County come in fourth.
This was Huntsville’s best TARC year since 2013 when John Paul II was fourth and Liberty Middle was eighth nationally. Bob Jones was third in 2010. Tharptown finished tenth last year.
The John Paul II team mentor is Duane Meyer, who also is the reigning HARA Geezer TARC champion.
Here are the teams, places and scores.
Place School City State Flight 1 Flight 2 Score
1 Hardin Valley Academy Team 1 Knoxville TN 11.4 2 13.4
2 Tharptown High School Russellville AL 13.8 1 14.8
3 John Paul II High School Team 2 Huntsville AL 17 6.92 23.92
16 Hackleburg High School Hackleburg Alabama 30.76 28 58.76
23 Lawrence County High School Moulton Alabama 39 36.36 75.36
34 Haleyville City Schools Haleyville Alabama 49.24 65.52 114.76
35 Winfield City High School Winfield Alabama 29.72 102.72 132.44
36 West Morgan High School Trinity Alabama 26 222.32 248.32
37 John Paul II High School Team 1 Huntsville Alabama 37.12 946.92 984.04
38 Bob Jones High School Madison Alabama 9.44 DQ 9.44
As participants launched for points, a TARC alumnus was circling above them in space. NASA astronaut Warren “Woody” Hoburg competed in the National Finals of the inaugural American Rocketry Challenge in 2003. Twenty years later, in March 2023, Hoburg blasted off to space as the Pilot of NASA’s SpaceX Crew-6 mission to the International Space Station (ISS). His journey to space began with a model rocket.
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