MELBOURNE, FLA. — A Florida Institute of Technology rocket team took third place overall and earned the Rookie of the Year Award in the 2009 University
Student Launch Initiative (USLI). Nineteen universities competed in the rocket competition, including Vanderbilt University, Georgia Institute of
Technology, Arizona State University and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. Utah State University placed first and University of Alabama, Huntsville,
took second place.
The teams launched their rockets April 18 at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. The competition wasn’t over, however, until the teams
submitted results of their analyses and documentation by late May.
The Florida Tech team’s 30-pound rocket, Panther II, reached an altitude of 5,020 feet, close to its target goal of 5,280 feet. The team also received an
early award for Best Payload Design. Their payload was a fuel slosh experiment to monitor how fluids move during rocket acceleration. The findings are
applicable to NASA’s next-generation Constellation Program.
“The NASA judges were ‘wowed’ by the team’s procedures,” said Greg Peebles, university safety officer and one of the Florida Tech team’s advisers. “The
team employed a redundant avionics computing system, including two six degree of freedom movement monitors, three altitude monitors and a video system.”
The teams selected to compete were chosen from among dozens of proposals for the USLI. The initiative is sponsored by Alliant Techsystems (ATK) and hosted
by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.
The teams designed their rockets and payloads throughout the academic year. They were judged by panels of NASA scientists and engineers, and their partners
who rated students on their design work, test flights and meticulous documentation.
Florida Team members were: Alex Berta, Shawna Boucher, Jiten Chandiramani, Sunil Chintalapati, Esteban Contreras, Niroshen Divitotawela, Joel Faure, Robert
Geuther, David Jarkey, Justin LaFountain, Philip Meyer, Adi Nagesh, Craig Otten, Scott Perry, and Mike Vergalla. The other 2009 Florida Tech team advisers
were Daniel Kirk and Hector Gutierrez, associate professors of mechanical and aerospace engineering.
The competition challenges students to design, build and fly a reusable rocket that carries a scientific payload to exactly one mile in altitude. For more
information about USLI, visit www.nasa.gov/education.
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