The top 100 model rocket teams in the country are aiming for a showdown next month after AIA announced the finalists for the Team America Rocketry Challenge Friday.

The teams will face off on May 20 at Great Meadow in The Plains, Va. for the title. A list of finalists for TARC — the world’s largest model rocket contest — is available at

A total of 678 teams from 47 states and the District of Columbia took part in the qualifying round of the competition. That represented close to 7,000 middle and high school students.

AIA President and CEO John W. Douglass said there is momentum gathering in TARC, helping the core mission of attracting young people to aerospace careers.

“We are already seeing some TARC alumni studying aerospace-related subjects in college,” Douglass said. “It looks like this year we have another good group of students who hopefully will be our future engineers and scientists.”

This year’s competition is a little more complicated than previous editions. Students will be shooting for an altitude of 800 feet and an exact flight time of 45 seconds — the first time the contest has included both elevation and duration criteria. The one-raw-egg payload must return safely to the earth, and each flight receives a performance score based on how close it came to the goals. Teams had until Monday to send in preliminary qualifying scores for the final, which features schools from 32 states and Washington D.C.

AIA created the contest three years ago as a one-time event to mark the 100th anniversary of flight, but overwhelming interest turned it into an annual event. The goal is to promote aerospace to students to attract more young people to careers in the industry. The contest is also sponsored by the National Association of Rocketry in partnership with NASA, the Defense Department, the Civil Air Patrol, and 39 AIA member companies. The winning teams share a prize pool of more than $60,000 in savings bonds and cash.

Raytheon, an AIA member company, sweetened the pot this year, sponsoring a trip for members of the winning team to the Farnborough International Airshow near London in July.

For more information about AIA’s Team America Rocketry Challenge, including details on how to sponsor a team and to apply for press credentials to attend the finals, visit

Founded in 1919, the Aerospace Industries Association represents the nation’s leading manufacturers and suppliers of civil, military, and business aircraft, helicopters, unmanned aerial vehicles, space systems, aircraft engines, materiel, and related components, equipment services, and information technology.