Rockville Explorer Post Headed to National Rocketry Competition

Team 2662. Photo by Bob Ekman

A team from Explorer Post 1010 has earned a spot in the national finals of the Team America Rocketry Challenge (TARC). They will now move on to compete against and 99 other teams in May for $100,000 in scholarships and a chance to represent the U.S. at the International Rocketry Challenge in Paris.

Team 2662 is the only team in the state to have qualified for the finals. The four members are Malini Balachandran, Matthew McCallum, Mayilan Thanigai, and Vivek Uppoor. They are students at Bethesda-Chevy Chase, Wootton, and Richard Montgomery High Schools.

“Post 1010 has had teams in TARC since 2005,” explained Bob Ekman, the Post’s adult advisor, “We have been to the finals several times, our best showing was 5th place in 2014. Very few teams from Maryland make it to the finals. We have poor launch sites, bad weather, and the schools and recreations departments don’t support rocketry.”

Photo by Bob Ekman

Competing in the TARC is a year-round activity, explains Ekman, “In the summer we conduct experiments in rocketry. In the fall we recruit new members and design, build, and fly test rockets. Starting around January, we fly rockets to qualify for the finals. It is a long term program, spending only a few hours each week. We spend a lot of time waiting for the glue to dry, the paint to dry, and the weather to clear. Then you load the rocket, push the button, and it’s all over in about a minute.”

The team met during normal Explorer meetings on Wednesdays for work sessions and on Saturdays and Sundays for launches. The program is one way that innovative strategies are being implemented to complement the efforts in our schools.

“For budding engineers, it is important to be involved in many projects – plan, design, build, and test, over and over. As with many endeavors, the more you do the better you get. And if you have fun doing it, you will do more. Flying a rocket is a lot of fun.” said Ekman.

Lawrence Mason from TARC stated, “These young engineers in the making are the future of our innovative goals that need to be accomplished through STEM efforts. As Maryland continues to be so closely intertwined with initiatives in the aerospace and STEM industry, the students in contests like TARC from your community are almost certain to be the faces of innovation tomorrow.”

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