UNCP physics students to compete in high-powered rocket competition in Wisconsin

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First Nations launch

A group of UNC Pembroke physics students be among teams from 22 universities nationwide competing in a NASA-sponsored high-powered rocket competition.

Ten undergraduate students will travel to Wisconsin in April to compete in the Wisconsin Space Grant Consortium’s First Nations Launch.

“They are all excited,” said Dr. Jose D’Arruda, a UNCP physics professor and team advisor. “We will be competing against schools like Penn State, UCLA and the University of Hawaii.”

UNC Pembroke received a grant to cover the cost of the building materials. Additional monies must be raised for travel costs.

The students will not only build and launch the rocket, but they will also design the electronic circuits necessary to measure its speed, acceleration and altitude during its flight.

Several of the team members are enrolled in UNCP’s 3-plus-2 program which gives students the opportunity to earn an applied physics degree from UNCP in three years followed by a degree in electrical or mechanical engineering from N.C. State University.

“A big part of learning today is hands-on,” D’Arruda said. “And this competition is a collaborative learning experience. The team members decided which part of the process to be involved in, from electronics, the safety team, programming or constructing the nose cone. 

“That is all part of them being engineers. That’s what engineering is all about.”

The challenge is to design, construct and launch a high power rocket. One that is a scale model of a current or retired, rocket or missile used around the world.

The rocket must exceed 4,100 feet and no higher than 5,500 feet above ground level. The goal is for the rocket to remain in the air as long as possible. All teams are expected to retrieve their rockets in ‘flyable condition.’

Seniors Killian McDonald of Fayetteville and Chase Curt of Laurinburg were chosen as team leaders.

“I think this is a great opportunity because this is the first time the university has been part of the First Nations Launch,” Curt said.

The competition is open to universities that have an American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES) chapter.

“Considering the fact that physics and engineering is not a popular major here, it is nice to have an opportunity to be a part of this rocket building club,” Curt added.

“This is going to be fun and a great experience for the students and great exposure for the university.”

The competition will be held April 19-22. Students present their work to the judges the day before the launch.

The other team members are Sandra Huneycutt, junior from Rockingham; Mariam Gerges, junior from Charlotte; Dana Lamberton, sophomore, Red Springs; Seth McDonald, junior, Red Springs; James Barstrom, junior, Gastonia; Jamal Cromartie, junior, Lumberton; Andrew Stephens, senior, Fairmont; Bradley Patterson, freshman, Lumberton; Zach Miller, senior, Aurora; Omar Torres, junior, Richlands; and Jazmin Pet, freshman, Weaverville.