HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- NASA has named the top university winners in the 2009-10 NASA Student Launch Projects, its annual rocketry challenge designed to inspire and encourage a tech-savvy, "sky-minded" new generation of American engineers and scientists.
The student team from the University of Alabama in Huntsville won first place in the challenge. Competitors from Mississippi State University near Starkville, and North Carolina State University in Raleigh won the second- and third-place awards, respectively. North Carolina State University, participating for the first time this year, also was named Rookie Team of the Year. Eighteen student teams from American colleges and universities participated.
The NASA rocketry challenge tasks student teams to design, build and test-fly sophisticated, reusable rockets capable of carrying working science payloads to an altitude of 1 mile and return them safely to Earth. Teams also must design and operate the science payloads, maintain websites to document the experience and devise local educational engagement campaigns to share their enthusiasm for rocketry and inspire younger students to pursue technical learning fields, including science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
This year's challenge concluded with a launch event in April near the home of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville. NASA's competition judges evaluated each team's rocket design, flight data, website and final written report from the students.
The NASA Student Launch Projects challenge is organized by the Marshall Center's Academic Affairs Office, with corporate sponsorship by ATK Aerospace Systems of Magna, Utah. It included the competitive college and university division launch on April 17, and the non-competitive, invitational division launch on April 18 for middle school and high school rocket teams who placed among the top winners in one of two national rocketry events -- the Team America Rocketry Challenge and the Rockets for Schools Competition. Fourteen middle school and high school teams flew rockets during the NASA event.
The winning University of Alabama in Huntsville team will receive $5,000 from ATK. The team also took home two preliminary awards at a banquet after the launch event: Best Vehicle Design, for the most creative, innovative, safety-conscious rocket; and the Project Review Award, for the best written design and flight readiness reviews and formal presentations. The Mississippi State team received the Educational Engagement Award for best inspiring the study of rocketry and other spaceflight-related topics among schools in their community, and the team from North Carolina State won the Team Spirit Award.
"The talents and ambitions of these student rocketeers are sky-high," said Tammy Rowan, manager of Marshall's Academic Affairs Office. "Every year, we see more sophisticated launch vehicles, more complex science payloads and more enthusiastic participants. It's a pleasure to share this practical learning experience with these future engineers and scientists -- and to know that the future of American space exploration will be in good hands in years to come."
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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.
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