The UNC Pembroke Rocket Team was formed with a handful of students looking to hone their engineering and design skills.
Five years and several intercollegiate rocket competitions later, student participation––much like the seven-foot-long rockets they build––has taken off.
The team, led by captains Caleb Locklear and Hector Felix, more than tripled from eight members to a roster of 25. Enough to field two teams.
The team began competing in the First Nations Launch (FNL) national rocket competition in 2018. This year, UNCP has been selected to compete in the NASA Student Launch Challenge hosted at Alabama's Marshall Space Flight Center in April.
Student teams from 69 colleges and universities representing 25 states and Puerto Rico were selected.
"Last year, we began with three team members and ended with eight, but I guess winning prize money and awards changed that," said Dr. Steven Singletary, physics professor and team advisor. "This year, we have 25 participants, with more students asking daily if they can participate."
UNCP has a full NASA team, an FNL team, a social media team, a safety team, and a STEAM outreach team. They will also compete next year at the First Nations Launch competition in Wisconsin.
Students are currently working on the design and construction phase of a high-powered rocket capable of flying to an altitude between 4,000 and 6,000 feet.
Competition experiences have led to collaborations and networking with NASA engineers and major aerospace corporations such as Blue Origin and Lockheed Martin.
"They get to see someone who has gone through the process they are going through and what the end state can look like," Singletary said. "It makes them want to work harder in their classes to be like the people they have met. I'm excited about both teams, as I think they will perform well. This is big because it proves that UNCP students can compete with the big boys."
Locklear, who is enrolled in UNCP's 3+2 dual engineering degree program, said the competitions provide a way to connect with a variety of engineers within the field of aerospace.
"It allows students to be set in a professional, career-related environment on campus to complete our objectives. Although I didn't have aerospace engineering in mind, participating in these competitions has helped me understand what engineers must do concerning designing, building and writing reports," Locklear said.
The UNCP Rocket Team members are: Lorenzo Romani, Roman Watson, Samuel Kauer, Mace Velarde, Ethan Phillippi, Joseph Cimadamore, Hector Felix, Seth Lowery, Riley Edwards, McLean Pait, Kendrick Oxendine, Micah Ferguson, James Foster, Sydney Allen, Alexis Velarde, Caleb Locklear, Bryan Martinez, Xander Amores, Jose Hernandez, Eric Schwartz, Taegyun Im, Savannah Watkins and Joanna Felix.