Rocketry Club wins grant from NASA

The Rocketry Club received a $3,700 grant from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to build a rocket which can carry a scientific payload a mile into the air.

NASA gave the grant to 14 rocketry teams, most of which hail from high schools, as part of its Student Launch Initiative.

The 14 teams will demonstrate their rockets April 15-19 at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.

The team qualified to submit a rocket proposal for the SLI when they placed 13th out of over 700 teams at the Team America Rocketry Challenge last May in The Plains, Va.

“I’m really excited to go to Alabama,” Spencer Gordon ’10, a member of the Rocketry Club, said. “I’ve never seen any serious rocket launch, so this is going to be really exciting.”

Gordon had attended the Rocketry Challenge last May, when the team successfully launched a rocket over 700 feet into the air.

Gordon said that launch will pale in comparison to the 5,280-foot launch that they hope to manage this time.

The team’s proposal to NASA, which was written primarily by Ian Cinnamon ’10, was one of 14 proposals chosen out of 21 submitted.

Cinnamon said that there is a chance that NASA will actually make use of the best rocket it sees at Huntsville.

“I am thrilled to get this opportunity,” Cinnamon said.  “How many high school students can say they are a government contractor?”

Cinnamon’s teammate Brett Thompon ’10 was amazed at their opportunity at well.

“It blows my mind, the fact that we’re being contracted by NASA,” Thompson said. “It’s amazing how far we can go if we just put some effort into what we’re doing.”

For some members of the Rocketry Club, having their proposal chosen was no surprise. Gordon said that he was especially confident in Cinnamon’s abilities.

“Ian is way ahead of the game on this,” Gordon said.

Brendan Kutler ’10, also a member of the team, expressed a similar sentiment.

“Ian does all the planning,” Kutler said. “We help him with the rocket, but he makes everything work.”

Cinnamon said that the team will meet on Sundays over the next few months to build their rocket, design a team website and prepare the rocket’s scientific payload.

The payload will be a sample of live, but harmless, bacteria, an idea proposed by Richard Liu ’10. According to Cinnamon’s proposal, one goal of the launch in Huntsville will be to determine the effect of high altitude and fast acceleration on the bacteria’s rate of growth.

This will be attempted using small light-emitting diodes and wireless cameras built in to the rocket, which will record and send images of the bacteria during the rocket’s flight.

Gordon said that other teams were experimenting with different kinds of payloads.

In addition to NASA’s funding, Cinnamon’s proposal calls for $5,000 in school funds, at least part of which he expects the math and science departments will provide, and $3,100 in sponsorships, which he said the team hopes to obtain from local businesses.

The Rocketry Club was founded last year as a small endeavor, and has gradually expanded.

Eric Arzoian ’09 joined the team in its inaugural year and was surprised to be honored by NASA.

“Truthfully, I haven’t even really processed it yet,” he said. “I’ve learned a lot, and I didn’t expect it to be as fun and rewarding as it is.”

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