The Plains, Va. – Students from Madison West High School in Madison, Wis. placed first at the 10th annual Team America Rocketry Challenge finals Saturday, besting 99 teams from across the country to earn the title of national champion in a contest that puts kids on track for careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

Madison West will travel to London courtesy of Raytheon Company days before the 2012 Summer Olympic Games to defend America’s 2011 championship title at the Farnborough International Air Show, competing with the UK and France.

Last fall, Madison West joined nearly 700 participating teams from a diverse range of geographic and cultural backgrounds to hand-design, build and launch a rocket that must be able to reach exactly 800 feet during a 43- to 47-second flight. The payload, two raw eggs, must return to the ground by parachute undamaged. Sponsored by the Aerospace Industries Association and the National Association of Rocketry, this year’s contest involved students from 48 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

“We are so proud to represent our school in the Team America Rocketry Challenge, and we are honored to compete internationally this summer in London on behalf of the America,” said Suzanne Hanle, a member on the winning TARC team. “There is still work to be done to make our rocket even better, but we are thankful to have an incredible mentor and teacher who support us.”

The first place team logged a 12, earning the competition’s top score in what competition organizers deemed the most rigorous challenge in TARC’s 10-year history. A perfect score is zero.

“This year’s competition has inspired hundreds of young people who will be future leaders in aerospace and engineering,” said AIA President and CEO Marion C. Blakey. “We could not have asked for a better way to celebrate 10 years of TARC, and we can’t wait to welcome today’s participants to our industry.”

Madison West sent three teams to the 2012 Team America Rocketry Challenge. Out of the nine years they’ve been competing in TARC, this is the winning team’s eighth time qualifying for the final flyoff.

Raytheon Company provides substantial support for TARC as well as funding for Madison West to attend the international flyoff on July 15. Teams are competing for a total of $73,000 in scholarships and prizes and an opportunity to participate in NASA’s Student Launch Initiative, an advanced rocketry design program. Lockheed Martin Corporation contributes $30,000 in scholarships including awards to the top 10 schools to further their STEM education efforts and to one senior pursuing a college degree in a STEM field in the fall.

More than 60,000 students have entered the competition since TARC’s inception. In a 2010 survey of TARC alumni, 92 percent of participants said they would encourage a friend to pursue careers in STEM-related fields, and four out of five respondents said TARC has had a positive impact on their course of study.

“We all really like physics and engineering, and we know this experience will impact our future studying,” confirms Hanle, a junior on Madison West High School.

Contact [email protected] for complete competition results and high-resolution images.