MELBOURNE, FLA.—A recent donation from Northrop Grumman Corp. will lift several student aerospace engineering projects off the ground. Dave Keldsen, University Recruiting and Relations manager, Northrop Grumman Corp. Aerospace Systems, presented a $3,000 check to the Student Rocket Society at Florida Institute of Technology to assist in funding student projects in rocket design.
“We have been doing some research on rockets with Florida Tech,” Keldsen said. “One of our research and development engineers turned us on to the existence of the (Rocket Society).”
The society operates under adviser Greg Peebles, director of environmental and regulatory compliance and safety adviser for all rocket projects on and off campus. The group includes about 23 members, said Joe Bussenger, aerospace engineering sophomore and 2010-11 society president.
“We are a research and development club,” Bussenger said. “We work with professors to design and build rockets.”
The society often participates in statewide and national rocket building and design competitions. Preparation for these competitions requires funding for student research and projects.
“It’s not unusual for one of these smaller projects to cost several hundred dollars,” Peebles said.
A team from the society recently competed for the first time in the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center University Student Launch Initiative Competition in Huntsville, Ala. The team joined students from all over the country. The Florida Tech-based team’s rocket entry brought home three awards, including third-place overall, Rookie of the Year Award and the Best Payload Award. For the competition, the team was funded by the College of Engineering. The project cost was approximately $15,000.
“To go back, we have to find other funding sources,” Peebles said.
Phil Meyer, second-year aerospace engineering graduate student, said participating in the design process of the team’s rocket project “gave him an in-depth understanding of what real engineering projects are like.”
“It was a real blast,” Meyer said. “We put a lot of hours into building that rocket.”
Keldsen praised senior members of the club for fostering interest in rocket building and design in younger generations of aerospace engineering students.
Northrop Grumman also recently donated $2,000 to the university for its Excellence in Teaching Award. Among its many generous gifts, in 2009 the company presented Florida Tech with a $1 million gift to support the annual engineering and science student design competition.