Oregon Students Crowned National Champions in World’s Largest Rocket Contest

Oregon Episcopal School team tops 614 rocketry teams from across America to win the 2021 American Rocketry Challenge 

Arlington, VA – Oregon Episcopal School of Portland, Oregon today took home the top prize at the world’s largest student rocketry competition – The American Rocketry Challenge – earning the title of 2021 National Champion.

The Oregon Episcopal School team, consisting of Kara Gaiser (17), Zack Weinstein (17), Andy Hou (17), Alfredo Roman Jordan (16), Dean Schultz (17), Eliška Jelinek (16), Kate Bloom (19), Oscar Hapke (17), Christian Compton (15), and Naphat Siripun (16) posted a combined score of 7.7 across their two launches at the National Finals. Their victory follows months of preparing, designing, building, and testing a rocket capable of meeting rigorous altitude and flight duration parameters set by the contest’s sponsors, the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) and the National Association of Rocketry.

“We all watched the awards ceremony on a Zoom call from across the world, and we still can’t believe we won,” said team co-captain Kara Gaiser. “Working virtually, we learned the most this year out of all our past years competing. We developed a system to ensure each team member—even those staying with family in Thailand—could contribute equally to everything from coding to 3D modeling. The American Rocketry Challenge has been an amazing focus for us, providing our whole team an opportunity to bond and work outside of school.”

After the COVID-19 pandemic caused the cancellation of the 2020 competition, 100 teams from 27 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands competed for $100,000 in prizes at the 2021 National Finals, distributed across 10 launch sites around the country between June 11th and 20th. The prize pool will be split among the top five teams, with Oregon Episcopal School taking  home the top prize of $20,000 and winning the title of National Champion. Additional prizes were awarded for teams who showcased STEM and branding principles in separate marketing and presentation awards. The top 25 finishers will also receive an invitation to participate in NASA’s Student Launch initiative to continue their exploration of rocketry with high-powered rockets and challenging mission parameters.


  • 615 teams from 46 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands competed in the 2021 edition of the contest.
  • 21 of the 100 National Finalist teams were first-time competitors.
  • The American Rocketry Challenge has distributed more than $120,000 in grants to first-time competitors from Title 1 schools since 2019 to launch their own rocketry teams.
  • First launched in 2002, the Rocketry Challenge has inspired more than 80,000 middle and high school students to explore education and careers in STEM fields.

Now in its 19th year, the American Rocketry Challenge has become the aerospace and defense industry’s flagship program designed to encourage students to pursue studies and careers in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).

“Congratulations to the winners and competitors of this year’s American Rocketry Challenge,” said Greg Hayes, Chairman and CEO of Raytheon Technologies. “Your work and innovation are creating a brighter future in aerospace and defense. With a tremendous focus on STEM – and building skills through team work, problem solving, working with diverse teammates and overcoming challenges such as working virtually – every competitor and every team proves what we experience every day at Raytheon Technologies: companies don’t innovate, people do.”

“The unprecedented challenges posed by the pandemic were no match for our intrepid rocketeers,” said AIA President and CEO Eric Fanning. “Their hard work and ingenuity were on full display at the National Finals, proving their ability to rise to any occasion. We are proud to foster a passion for aerospace in these bright young students as they grow into the next generation of STEM leaders.”

Consistent with national, state, and local health guidance, the 2021 National Finals was held at 10 launch sites across the country, located in or near: Birmingham, Alabama; Lucerne Valley, California; Pueblo, Colorado; Palm Beach, Florida; Syracuse, New York; Dayton, Ohio; Rockdale, Texas; The Plains, Virginia; Pasco, Washington; and Brighton, Wisconsin.


National Finals

  • 1st Place: Oregon Episcopal School – Portland, OR
  • 2nd Place: Explorer Post 1010, Team 1 – Rockville, MD
  • 3rd Place: Webster City High School – Webster City, IA
  • 4th Place: Mathmania Robotics – Mission Viejo, CA
  • 5th Place: Russellville City Schools, Team 1 – Russellville, AL
  • Best First Time Finalist: Oregon Episcopal School – Portland, OR

Best in Launch Site Awards

  • Birmingham, Alabama: Russellville City Schools, Team 1 – Russellville, AL
  • Lucerne Valley, California: Mathmania Robotics – Mission Viejo, CA
  • Pueblo, Colorado: Air Capital STEM Club – Wichita, KS
  • Palm Beach, Florida: St. Croix STEM Academy, Team 2 – Kingshill, U.S. Virgin Islands
  • Syracuse, New York: The Lawrenceville School – Lawrenceville, NJ
  • Dayton, Ohio: Webster City High School – Webster City, IA
  • Rockdale, Texas: Sherman High School – Sherman, TX
  • The Plains, Virginia: Explorer Post 1010, Team 1 – Rockville, MD
  • Pasco, Washington: Oregon Episcopal School – Portland, OR
  • Brighton, Wisconsin: Madison West High School, Team 1 – Madison, WI

Marketing Competition

  • Winner: Marquette High School – Chesterfield, MO (video)
  • Runner-Up: Oregon Episcopal School – Portland, OR (video)

Presentation Competition

  • Winner: Northville High School – Northville, MI
  • Runner-Up: International Community School – Kirkland, WA
  • Best First Time Team: Northville High School – Northville, MI

National Finals Photo Contest

  • Most Inspiring Group Photo: John Champe High School – Aldie, VA (photo)
  • Most Imaginative Team Costume: The Lawrenceville School – Lawrenceville, NJ (photo)
  • Most Creative Photo with Launch Site Flag: STARBASE Los Alamitos – Los Alamitos, CA (photo)
  • Most Dynamic Rocket Photo: Vector Space – Lynchburg, VA (photo, #4)

Click here to see a list of all 2021 American Rocketry Challenge award winners.

For more information about the American Rocketry Challenge and to view the list of all award winners and national finalists, visit our site: www.rocketcontest.org.

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