Huntsville, Ala. ---- Alabama A&M University can chalk up another one for the
history books. A team from the College of Engineering, Technology and Physical Sciences (CETPS) topped NASA's coveted annual University Student Launch Initiative on Sunday, April 21.
Nearly 40 universities from all over the country competed at the Bragg Farm in Toney, Ala. The AAMU team's rocket was closest to the one mile target (5,280 feet), reaching 5,269 feet, noted team advisor, Dr. Mohamed Seif. Points were awarded for altitude, payload, design, and other design and performance factors.
The team was made up of students from AAMU's engineering programs. Dedicated to the project for the entire 2012-13 year were: Dr. Mohamed Seif (mentor); Justin J. Taylor, rocket team leader/president, senior; Julion Bell, senior; Gabriel Odinaka, senior; Landon Cook, senior; Shaquille Dial, junior; Rickey Muirhead, junior; Emmanuel Hunter, junior; and Sebastian Alsop, sophomore.
In a word, the AAMU team, advisors and administrators were ecstatic. “This is
unbelievable,” commented Dr. Chance Glenn, dean of CETPS. "This is a testament to the initiative, knowledge and leadership of our students. They confidently strode onto a national stage and performed brilliantly. The college and the University can be proud of their achievements."
"I am very proud of their dedication, perseverance and enthusiasm," commented Dr. Seif, adding that the team was very confident that it would win. "When I found out that the students were able to match the testing results with the analysis and computer simulation (RockSim Analysis), I realized that AAMU had a winning team this year,"
According to NASA, the Student Launch Projects (SLP) challenges middle, high school and college students to design, build and launch a reusable rocket to one mile above ground level as it carries a scientific or engineering payload.
On the night before the competition, the AAMU team monitored the weather conditions and stayed in the machine shop until 1 a.m. modifying their design, said Dr. Seif. "They realized that they were competing nationally with very high caliber teams, and they tried their best to eliminate any source of error."
In 2004, chemistry professor Razi Hassan led a team of students on a similar launch in Manchester, Tenn. However, the goal at that time was two miles (more than 10,000 feet). A Proteus rocket fondly named “Butch,” after the school mascot, reached 1.8 miles, falling short of rival UAH, which achieved 1.9 miles. However, the UAH rocket was not successfully retrieved. This led toward an overall win by the AAMU team. Team members, Hassan and former engineering dean Arthur J. Bond were proud of the achievement.
The Academic Affairs Office at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., manages SLP. It comprises two project elements: NASA Student Launch Initiative (SLI) for middle and high school teams and the NASA University Student Launch Initiative (USLI) for community college and university teams.
Participating in USLI is requires commitment and discipline. The program is an eight-month or academic-year commitment with multiple requirements, chief among them a series of reports and reviews, a website, education outreach in the local community, provision of a timeline, a budget and even more requirements.
Additionally, all teams must successfully complete an initial and a final ‘launch readiness review’ safety check before launch in Huntsville, Ala.
- Jerome Saintjones