Tennessee Students Place Fourth at International Rocketry Competition

Photo: Team USA, in red on the left, at the award ceremony of the 2023 International Rocketry Challenge.

Paris—Hardin Valley Academy Team 1, from Knoxville, Tenn., placed fourth today in the International Rocketry Challenge at the Paris Air Show, held at the Paris-Le Bourget Airport. The team from the United Kingdom placed first, followed by France and Japan.

The Hardin Valley students won the opportunity to represent the United States at the international contest after placing first at the American Rocketry Challenge national finals in The Plains, Va., on May 20. Members of the team include team captain Zaen Grissino-Mayer, age 16; Halley “Mickey” Dandena, 17; Henry Harvey, 16; Bailey Mounts, 16; Caleb Mulder, 16; Kahlil Ortiz, 16; and Otilia Scolnic, 16.

The annual rocketry competition challenges middle and high school students to design, build, and launch model rockets, with the goal of inspiring students to continue in aerospace and STEM. Hardin Valley Academy’s accomplishment is the culmination of months of preparation, involving design, construction, and testing of a rocket capable of meeting rigorous mission parameters. This is their first year of competition.

“I am deeply proud of the Hardin Valley Academy team for representing our nation and solidifying their place as elite contenders. Through this remarkable journey, they honed their engineering skills, tested their limits, and discovered the true meaning of teamwork on the global stage. Congratulations to the United Kingdom for their first-place finish,” said Eric Fanning, President and CEO of the Aerospace Industries Association, which oversees the American Rocketry Challenge. “Seeing these students’ growth and success in just one short year underscores the value of STEM outreach and programs in building future aerospace leaders today. May this accomplishment be a launch pad towards a bright future where their dreams take flight.”

This year, the competition required the design and construction of a rocket capable of delivering a payload of one raw large hen’s egg to an altitude of 850 feet, before returning it safely to the ground within 42 to 45 seconds. Teams were also judged on a technical presentation where they were required to describe their approach to the mission.

“Congratulations to all of this year’s International Rocketry Challenge competitors, including the team representing the United Kingdom,” said Greg Hayes, Chairman and CEO of RTX, a sponsor of American Rocketry Challenge and Team USA at the international contest for over 15 years. “Tackling tough challenges is foundational to what we do at RTX, and these students, with their incredible ability to collaborate, innovate and remain focused but flexible, are excellent examples of what we need in our future leaders as we work to create a safer, more connected world.”

The International Rocketry Challenge is the final round of competition following four other national rocketry challenges held annually around the globe, including the award-winning American Rocketry Challenge, sponsored by the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) and the National Association of Rocketry (NAR). Earlier this year, AIA signed a Space Act Agreement with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to expand upon the American Rocketry Challenge to create opportunities that broaden student participation in aerospace, inspire the next generation of STEM professionals, and provide connections to NASA’s Artemis program, among others.

The other three national rocketry challenges are the UK Youth Rocketry Challenge (UKROC), sponsored by the Royal Aeronautical Society; the French Rocketry Challenge, sponsored by the Groupement des Industries Francaises Aeronautiques et Spatiales (GIFAS) and Planete Sciences; and the Japanese Rocketry Challenge, sponsored by the Society of Japanese Aerospace Companies (SJAC) and the Japan Association of Rocketry.

For more information and content, visit http://www.rocketcontest.org and find the contest on Twitter and Instagram.