Newly founded Rocket Club active this fall

Rocket Club founders John Costa ’17 (left), Keanu Rodriguez ’17 (middle) and Daniel Sakakini ’17 (right) sit at the Rocket Club booth during the 2016 club fair. Courtesy of Jamaluddin Aram

After much consideration and effort, the Rocket Club is all set to start working on campus this fall. Founded by five Union students, namely Keanu Rodriguez ’17, Kelsey Graham ’17, John Costa ’17, Daniel Sakakini ’17 and Maddie Miller ’19, the Rocket Club aims to promote participation in different rocket competitions held throughout the country. “We plan on taking part in the Spaceport America Cup and Intercollegiate Rocket Engineering Competition (IREC) 2017 this year,” noted Graham ’17.

The Experimental Sounding Rocket Association (ESRA) has been working with Spaceport America (SA) in New Mexico to team up and offer colleges and industry an even better opportunity to collaborate and compete. Starting this year, IREC will become part of a brand new event called the Spaceport America Cup (SAC).

ESRA hosts an inter collegiate engineering competition for rocket teams from all over the country and around the world. With a payload size of 8.8 pounds and target altitudes of 10,000 feet and 30,000 feet above ground level, rockets are typically 4 to 12 inches in diameter and 4 to 20 feet long. Multistage rockets and all chemical propulsion types (solid, liquid, and hybrid) are allowed.

The Intercollegiate Rocket Engineering Competition will be the main event at this year’s Spaceport America Cup and the aim of the club for now is to compete in the aforementioned competition.

“Designing and building rockets requires scientific and engineering knowledge and good technical and math skills. Rockets are a great way to motivate and encourage students to pursue STEM based careers,” said Costa ’17.

Historically, the competition is attended by many reputable institutions from both the United States and the rest of the world. The list of the colleges that have taken part in the competition so far are: Brigham Young University Idaho, Century College, California State University Los Angeles, ETS Montreal, George Washington University, Istanbul Technical University, ITA Brazil, Laval University Canada, New Mexico Tech, Oregon State University, Polytechnique Montreal, Purdue University, UCLA, University of Michigan, University of Minnesota, University of Missouri, University of Puerto Rico, University of Toronto, University of Waterloo and Washington University of St. Louis.

All the founding members talked about how they felt a need to have a rocket club ever since they first came to Union. They recalled how there were clubs like AERO and BAJA on campus but there was never a platform for aspiring engineers to exhibit or build on their interest in making rockets from scratch.

Sakakini ’17, elaborated on the interest shown by the college community when he said, “Ever since last spring, we’ve received very positive feedback from students, faculty, and a few staff members and that implied that there was a need for a rocket club to be initiated on campus and thus we acted accordingly.”

The club plans on splitting its members into groups led by a senior student and holding various sessions and programs throughout the year not only teaching students how to build rockets but also igniting their interest in this respective field.

As of now, Professor Andrew Rapoff from the Mechanical Engineering Department is helping the founding members set up the club, but all the founding members are hopeful that more faculty members will be around to help them out throughout the course of the academic year.


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