Despite substantial setbacks rocket team takes second place
Just weeks prior to the 2018-19 Space Grant Midwest High-Power Rocket Competition in May, the University of Illinois student team scheduled a test launch. Little did they know that in addition to their rocket’s ability to perform that day, their character as individuals and as a team would also be tested.
The “Efficient Supersonic” Rocket Challenge team’s project manager Charlie Foster said one of their biggest challenges came during that home stretch. “In April, at our test launch, the parachute didn’t deploy. We couldn’t find the rocket in the fields, so we had to go back and build a new one while keeping the same design and procedures. We had very little time to order new parts, build, and complete a paper due in early May.”
Foster said a combination of the team’s great attitude and a lot of hard work made rebuilding the rocket in time for the competition in May possible.
Out of 18 teams, the Illinois Space Society team from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign placed second. Teams from the University of Minnesota and Northwestern University placed first and third respectively.
Foster also described a design challenge the team faced—keeping the rocket’s weight to a minimum.
“Because the competition was to go supersonic with the smallest motor possible, we wanted to keep the rocket’s weight as low as possible. After an initial design was completed, we decided to change the design to make the rocket’s inner diameter the same as the motor’s outer diameter, making the rocket the minimum possible diameter—and why we named it ‘MIN-D.” Building the rocket that size meant there was not as much room to work with, so it was challenging,” Foster said.
As project manager, Foster said he learned a lot about the processes of engineering design and construction. “Completing a technically complex project with no experience forced me to learn what does and doesn’t work when creating a design and implementing that design.
“For our first competition launch, our non-commercial avionics did not collect data for either flight,” Foster said. “The team decided to take a risk and launch a second time as a do-over for the competition flight in hopes to receive avionics data. After hard work by Ayberk Yaraneri and the rest of the avionics team, we were able to receive non-commercial data the second time we launched on one of the flights.”
But, like many team projects, learning happens on much deeper levels as well. In this case, Foster said he learned about the values of perseverance and community.
“Our team faced plenty of challenges along the way. The easiest thing to do would be to take a shortcut or settle for a rocket that may not be as good. But no matter the situation, everybody on our team stayed motivated and strived to do our best. I think a big reason for that is because of the community built within our team,” Foster said. “We wanted to give our best effort during the hardest times so as not let our friends and teammates down. I think that put purpose behind the work we were all doing. I think a large part of our success is due to the perseverance and resilience of our team.”
He also said the team benefited from the support from older mentors in the Illinois Space Society, such as Connor Latham, Shivani Ganesh, and Avery Moore.
Team presentations about rocket designs were held at the Split Rocks Entertainment Center in Wyoming, Minnesota, on Saturday, May 18, 2019. Unfortunately the competition launches scheduled to take place at the Tripoli Minnesota high-power rocket launch site outside North Branch, Minnesota on May 19 and 20 were cancelled due to rain and the ensuing mud. The launches took place at the teams’ home fields instead and provided video evidence and post-flight reports for the judging.
U of I team members and their roles are as follows (student names with an * denotes they are aerospace engineering majors):
Charlie Foster* (project manager)
Ayberk Yaraneri* (avionics sub-team lead)
Tyler Yokoo*(structures sub-team lead)
Michael Ardovich* (structures sub-team and safety officer)
Angel Boynton* (structures sub-team)
Jasmin Chadha* (structures sub-team)
Maya Chattoraj (avionics sub-team)
Marta Cortinovis* (structures sub-team)
Joshua Cox (structures sub-team)
Audrey Godsell* (avionics sub-team)
Justin Herman* (structures sub-team)
Erika Jarosch* (avionics sub-team)
Roni Leto* (structures sub-team)
Daniel Lopez* (structures sub-team)
Srinidhi Muruganandam (avionics sub-team)
Ayush Nair* (avionics sub-team)
Ryan Okamoto (avionics sub-team)
Karnap Patel* (structures sub-team)
Adrian Petrykiw (structures sub-team)
Aaron Qiu (structures sub-team)
Aasheesh Randeo* (structures sub-team)
David Robbins* (avionics sub-team)
Kenneth Tochihara* (avionics sub-team)
Jeffery Zhou* (structures sub-team)