SF Engineering Club Enters NASA’s Student Rocket Race

The Santa Fe College Engineering Club is one of 42 university level teams nationwide chosen to design, build and launch a reusable rocket with a scientific or engineering payload. The SF club will compete against such schools as Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Notre Dame and the University of Florida.

“Rocket science is not just a science, it’s an art,” said Jimmy Yawn, who brought NASA’s University Student Launch Initiative (USLI) to the attention of the SF club. Yawn, coordinator of SF’s Career Resource Center, is certified level two by the Tripoli Rocketry Association and by the National Association of Rocketry.

Clubs in the rocket race must have a mentor who is certified level two in one of the major rocketry organizations, and Yawn is qualified to serve the SF club in that capacity. He will also mentor the UF club entered in this race, as he has done in the last two competitions.

There are many steps and deadlines the students have to meet. They must build a project website. They must develop preliminary designs and get their mentor’s advice as to feasibility, and the answers to questions like will it fly? Or, is it legal? Critical design and flight readiness reviews are conducted later by a panel of scientists and engineers from NASA and its affiliates.

“Students usually want to fly their rockets as high as possible,” said Yawn, “but to go above 2,000 feet they need FAA clearance.” (The student-built rockets are expected to reach one mile above ground level in the competition.)

SF’s application for the NASA competition was led by student Laniece Osteen, engineering club president. Osteen organized support for the club’s application, which required a grant. “This was the first time that an SF student took the lead in writing a grant,” said Joan Suchorski, associate vice president for development, grants and projects.

“She was successful in competing to get SF into the competition,” said Suchorski. “This is so cool – that it’s student led and it’s in the STEM field!.” (STEM is a coalition that supports education initiatives in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.)

Engineering Club faculty advisors Charles Schultz, Karim Diff and Nacira Tache provided support and encouragement.

Launch dates are set for April 18-22, 2012 near Huntsville, Ala. with launch services provided by the National Association of Rocketry.

For more information contact Jimmy Yawn, SF Career Resource coordinator, 352-395-4121, or email.