Team members assemble the 13-foot tall rocket, which will fly high in Alabama’s sky on April 6 at this year’s NASA Student Launch Competition. EILEEN QIU | THE POLY POST

Rocketry team readies for launch competition

After months of drafting a proposal, figuring out schematics, printing 3D materials and putting them all together, the Cal Poly Pomona Rocketry Team built a rocket from scratch and will compete in the 2018-2019 NASA Student Launch (NSL) competition. 

Roughly 13 feet in length, the rocket’s mission is to carry its load which will deploy a beacon after landing, then fly away and land safely somewhere else. 

Team leader Mateus Pinheiro, a fifth-year aerospace engineering major, said the team worked hard this year and he has high hopes it will do well in the competition.

“So far, everyone is really qualified this year,” Pinheiro said. “Everything was properly done, and the numbers and the math make sense.” 

Team members assemble the 13-foot tall rocket, which will fly high in Alabama’s sky on April 6 at this year’s NASA Student Launch Competition. (Eileen Qiu / The Poly Post)

According to the NSL handbook, rockets must finish landing within 90 seconds of reaching the highest altitude and land safely. The teams will then activate a trigger to deploy a remote-controlled unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). Then, teams could predict the radius of where the UAV could’ve landed and retrieve it with a GPS system. 

The team has a small workshop filled with cardboard box towers in Building 13, where team members work at least four hours per week. 

Pinheiro said it can be hard to maintain a work-life balance, but everyone works hard, especially since it’s so close to competition time. Chris Hamilton, a third-year aerospace engineering major and lead aerodynamics engineer for the rocketry team, put together a GPS system the team will use to locate the beacon after it deploys from the payload. 

“It’s like a Lego kit for adults,” Hamilton said. 

Lexington Mohatt, Khoa Vo and Mateus Pinheiro examine the payload. (Eileen Qiu / The Poly Post)

Other team members include fourth-year aerospace engineering major Ryan Yanagi, who is the lead payload engineer, second-year aerospace engineering major and lead outreach Khoa Vo, and third-year aerospace engineering major and lead safety specialist Christen Slag. Part of the requirements to participate in the competition includes outreach. Team members go to neighboring schools and give presentations to inspire young students to pursue careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). 

“We bring rockets to school and kids can handle them and hopefully feel inspired to become engineers and future scientists,” Vo said.

Pinheiro said most of the funding for the project comes from outside sponsors, such as Click Bond, Inc.

“We fronted the money for everything first,” Pinheiro said.

The team tested the rocket at the Friends of Amateur Rocketry (FAR) site in Randsburg, California. Tests weren’t always successful though. Pinheiro said they lost a part of the rocket 4 miles out into the desert and Juan Velazquez, a fourth-year mechanical engineering major and lead structural engineer, had to go out at night to retrieve it. The competition is on April 6 and the team will have to drive to Alabama to transport individual parts of the rocket and assemble it there for the competition. 

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