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Students build model rocket

Tori Roeck | Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Many people dream of being astronauts, but for members of Notre Dame’s student chapter of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), designing rockets is more fun than riding in them.

Eight aerospace engineering majors of all years put their studies into practice this weekend in the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) University Student Launch Initiative (USLI) in Huntsville, Ala.

Junior Jim Lampariello said the competition involved designing and testing a sophisticated rocket.

“It’s a contest sponsored by NASA to build a reusable, high-powered rocket,” Lampariello said. “The goal is to reach exactly one mile in altitude and also to carry scientific payload.”

Lampariello said 55 teams from colleges around the United States were chosen to compete in USLI.

“Teams [came from] as far away as Alaska and Hawaii, competing against teams like MIT and Georgia Tech,” he said. “Big name schools [were involved].”

Notre Dame’s team spent the last year working on the project, Lampariello said.

“We had to submit a proposal to get accepted by NASA … back in late September,” he said. “We got accepted in October, and we were awarded a $3,000 grant to carry out the project.”

The team submitted periodic reports leading up to the event, Lampariello said.

“Throughout the year, we had three different design reviews and three different presentations to NASA,” he said. “We had a web conference with NASA engineers from across the country presenting our ideas and our design concepts and convincing them that we would be able to have a successful project.”

Lampariello said a lot of work went into preparing for the contest.

“In our case, we measured atmospheric pressure, temperature, data [and] a whole bunch of different atmospheric characteristics,” he said.  

Junior Matthew Kudija said the team looks forward to hearing the results of the competition in May after its members submit their final report.

“There was a string of reports submitted as part of the competition, and our final report summarizing our results will be submitted shortly,” Kudija said. “From that they select the overall winner of the competition.”

Kudija said Notre Dame’s student chapter of the AIAA encourages students to use their knowledge of aerospace engineering outside the classroom.

“The student chapter serves to promote aerospace-related activities, projects and such on campus,” he said. “This year, its primary projects have been to sponsor the Design/Build/Fly and the USLI competitions.”

Fifteen aerospace engineering students fielded a team for the Design/Build/Fly event that took place April 15th in Wichita, Kan., Kudija said.

Kudija said participating in aerospace engineering competitions gives students a glimpse of what their jobs will be like after graduation.

“[These competitions] give all of us the opportunity to put into practice the theoretical knowledge we’re learning in our classes as well as learning about working on a team and sticking with a project through the various challenges that arise,” he said.

Junior Joshua Szezudlak said the student chapter of the AIAA is looking for new members to participate in next year’s competitions.

“We would really like to recruit younger members as hard as we can. If there’s any interest at all, contact us,” he said. “Anyone who likes rockets [is welcome].”