HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- Student rocketeers from Utah State University in Logan -- who launched a sophisticated rocket of their own design to an altitude of 5,333 feet -- have won the 2008-2009 University Student Launch Initiative. They beat 18 other American college and university teams to clinch their second straight victory in the annual competition.
The launch challenge tasks student teams to design and build reusable rockets that can carry working science payloads 1 mile high and return them safely to Earth. The challenge concludes each spring with a day-long launch event near Huntsville, Ala., home of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center. NASA's competition judges then evaluate each team's rocket design, flight data and final written report about payload results and overall experience.
The annual competition is designed to engage and inspire technically gifted young people to pursue careers in fields devoted to science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The Marshall Center's Academic Affairs Office organized the event, which is sponsored by ATK Space Systems of Magna, Utah.
The Utah State University team edged out second- and third-place teams from the University of Alabama in Huntsville and the Florida Institute of Technology in Melbourne, respectively. Florida Institute of Technology, which fielded a rocket team for the first time this year, also was named the "Rookie Team of the Year" for its noteworthy first performance in the challenge.
As the top winner, the Utah State team will receive $5,000 from ATK and an invitation from NASA to attend a space shuttle launch at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, Fla. The team previously was honored with two preliminary awards at the post-launch banquet in April: "Best Vehicle Design," for the most creative, innovative, safety-conscious rocket; and the "Project Review Award," for delivering the best combination of written design and flight readiness reviews and formal presentations.
"Every year, our student participants bring a new depth of ingenuity and technical savvy to this competition," said Tammy Rowan, manager of Marshall's Academic Affairs Office. "We are thrilled to give them this very practical, hands-on glimpse of the challenging and rewarding career opportunities that await them. We're confident the rockets they're building and launching now are just a prelude of the terrific work they'll do in the future."
"It was amazing to see the level of talent that participated in this year's competition," said Jim Halsell, ATK Space Systems vice president of Space Exploration Systems and a former NASA astronaut. "If the students continue on this path into careers in engineering and science, America will have a tremendous future in space exploration as we return to the moon and journey out into the far reaches of the solar system."
Other student teams that participated in the 2008-2009 challenge were from Alabama A&M University in Huntsville; Arizona State University in Tempe; Auburn University in Auburn, Ala.; the College of Menominee Nation in Green Bay, Wis.; Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Fla.; Fisk University in Nashville; Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta; Harding University in Searcy, Ark.; Iowa State University in Ames; Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro; Mississippi State University in Starkville; Missouri University of Science & Technology in Rolla; Mitchell Community College in Statesville, N.C.; Tuskegee University in Tuskegee, Ala.; the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks; and Vanderbilt University in Nashville.
With the University Student Launch Initiative and the agency's other college and university programs, NASA will identify and develop the critical skills and capabilities needed to achieve its mission. The project is directly tied to NASA's major education goal of strengthening the agency and the nation's future work force.
For more information about the University Student Launch Initiative, search for "NASA SLI/USLI" on Facebook, or visit: education.msfc.nasa.gov/usli