Students Send 39 Rockets into Sunny Alabama During 10th Annual NASA Student Rocketry Challenge

The 2010-11 NASA Student Launch Projects rocketry challenge drew more than 500 students from middle schools, high schools, colleges and universities in 23 states.


HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- Though gusting winds delayed the countdown for a day, young rocketeers from all over America gathered undaunted in a sunny North Alabama cornfield April 17 to launch 39 rockets they designed and built themselves during this school year.

The 2010-11 NASA Student Launch Projects rocketry challenge drew more than 500 students from middle schools, high schools, colleges and universities in 23 states. They vied to see whose rocket could come closest to the 1-mile altitude goal and safely return its onboard science payload to Earth. Forty-four teams took part, though five faced mechanical or technical issues and did not launch. Ten preliminary awards were presented, and the grand prize -- $5,000 from ATK Aerospace Systems in Salt Lake City, Utah -- will be awarded in May after final post-flight analysis and review are complete.

This year's preliminary awards, sponsored by ATK, included:

-- Best Vehicle Design: Utah State University in Logan received the award for the most creative, innovative, safety-conscious rocket design.

-- Best Payload Design: For the second straight year, Vanderbilt University in Nashville won the award for the most creative and innovative payload experiment, emphasizing safety and scientific value. Vanderbilt's experiment involved using a novel, liquid-nitrogen injection system during its rocket flight to simulate the working behavior of an airplane engine at cruising altitude.

-- Best Web Design: One-man "team" Lucas Kalathas from Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania -- who built his school's rocket and payload, designed its website and conducted all outreach activities and design and launch reviews himself -- won the award for the best rocketry website: www.shipusli.com. The team from Fisk University in Nashville received an honorable mention for its site: www.faamt.com.

-- Project Review Award: The Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston was honored for delivering the best combination of written preliminary design, critical design and flight readiness reviews and formal presentations.

-- Education Engagement Award: The University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa team won for best inspiring the study of rocketry and other space-related topics. The team held 19 events during the current school year, reaching nearly 3,200 students in local classrooms and community groups. Collectively, this year's teams reached more than 21,000 young people with presentations and exhibits about their rocket-building efforts.

-- Closest to Altitude Award: The team from the University of Central Florida in Orlando received the university-level award for coming closest to the specified 1-mile altitude goal. The rocket reached an altitude of 5,210 feet -- just 70 feet off the mark. Though the high school challenge is not a competition, event organizers also recognized a new team, Rockwall-Heath High School of Rockwall, Texas, for setting a new closest-to-altitude record: 5,264 feet, just 16 feet shy of a perfect 1-mile-high launch.

-- Peer Awards: All rocket teams submitted votes for peer awards in each division. The "Best-Looking Rocket" awards went to the returning team from Plantation High School in Plantation, Fla., and to the Missouri University of Science & Technology in Rolla -- which previously won the same honor in 2008 and 2009. The "Best Team Spirit" prizes were awarded to Hart County 4-H's Team Noble from Munfordville, Ky., and the "Rocket Girls" of the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa.

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