Students Set for Launch in NASA Rocket Fair

More than 30 middle school, high school and college teams of student scientists will compete April 10 and 11 in the NASA Student Launch event near the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, AL.

The teams will launch rockets they have created to an altitude of as much as 1 mile, deploy onboard science experiments they have prepared and land safely using a system of recovery parachutes.
Student teams will launch rockets they have created themselves to altitudes of  1 mile.

The goal of the Student Launch Challenge, now in its 15th year, is to involve students in research-based explorations in which they design, build and launch a reusable rocket that can carry a scientific payload to an altitude of 1 mile. Teams are pre-qualified by completing NASA's Advanced Rocketry Workshop, and either the Student Launch Challenge, Team America Rocketry Challenge or 2014 Rockets for Schools competition.

During NASA's Advanced Rocketry Workshop, the student designs undergo technical reviews and follow actual flight safety guidelines, mirroring NASA's own engineering design lifecycle and safety protocols.

Tammy Rowan, manager of the Marshall Space Flight Center Academic Affairs Office, said, "Each team must meet rigorous standards and review processes, just like those applied in the NASA workplace."

College teams will participate in two divisions. Teams in the Maxi-Mars Ascent Vehicle division will launch their rockets Friday, April 10, with robotic systems that have fairly stringent autonomy requirements to meet. Those teams will compete for $50,000 in prize money.

Other college teams will participate in the Mini-Mars Ascent Vehicle division, also with robotic systems but less stringent requirements, Saturday, April 11. High school and middle school student teams will launch their rockets on Saturday as well.

The Maxi- and Mini-MAV competitions require the student teams to load simulated Mars soil samples into their rockets, launch them to 3,000 feet, eject and return the soil samples to earth. The high school and middle school teams have designed scientific or engineering payloads that will be flown to altitudes of 1 mile.

A Rocket Fair will be held Thursday, April 9, at the space flight center during which teams will give technical presentations to NASA engineers and get feedback on them. An awards banquet will be held April 10 at the United States Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville.

About the Author

Michael Hart is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer and the former executive editor of THE Journal.