On Saturday Nov. 13, over 100 students from the Brigham Young University Rocketry Club had the opportunity to launch rockets they’ve been working on for months at the Frank Hunt Field.
Members of the 34 teams competed to reach the target altitude of 1700 ft., and in other categories including efficiency, effective parachute deployment, and minimal rocket damage. Winners were announced in a club meeting on Wednesday, Nov. 30, and team Rocket n’ Roll won first place with their rocket, Major Tom.
“My favorite moment from the process to get there was finally getting all the parts and being able to put it together,” said Rocket n’ Roll team member Casey Gooch, a sophomore and first time rocket builder. “I like working with my hands, and designing the thing we built was way more fulfilling than building a Lego set or an IKEA cabinet. Plus, it’s a rocket. Isn’t that just the coolest thing?”
According to club president Dallin Cordon, the moment of launch is always a favorite for many competitors.
“It's not SpaceX, but it is still rocket science in a sense. You're launching a rocket, and it's really empowering to see that take off and just fly into the air until you can't see it anymore,” Cordon said.
There were occasional hiccups — a wing falling off here, a motor not starting there. But in the rocketry business, even the mishaps are exciting.
“There's never anything too awful going on that are big issues, and even when something fails spectacularly, that's just it... It's always spectacular,” Cordon said. “We had one team that was launching and the fin ripped off when it was in the air, so the rocket went up, then just started spiraling. There wasn't too much damage, but it was super exciting. So even when it fails it's awesome.”
More than just a competitive event, the launch was an opportunity for the 34 teams to get their feet wet in rocketry. Once the next semester starts, the students will have the experience needed to start working toward their L1 certification with either the NAR (National Association of Rocketry) or Tripoli.
This certification qualifies applicants to launch bigger rockets with more complex motors, and according to Cordon, it’s an extremely valuable resume builder.
“When you talk to an employer, it's not just, ‘I've launched some rockets,’ you can say ‘I am insured, and I'm certified to launch high power rockets and purchase motors. I have qualifications, and I have a National Association to back me up on that,'” Cordon said.
Junior Scott Tuley has gone through the process of certification during the past year of the club. He launched the biggest rocket at the event and received his L3 certification, the highest attainable level.
“At first it seemed very intimidating to build, and the whole process of getting certified did too, but it's honestly not that bad,” Tuley said. “Just take your time, don’t rush it, and also listen to the people who know their stuff. I loved seeing it fly, seeing all the work come together for just two minutes…it was a lot of fun.”
Other opportunities include individual projects, and competitions in the High Power and Junior High Power Teams, Payload Team, Hybrid Team, and Alka-Seltzer Team. The more members there are, the more the club has the potential to do.
“The whole point of the club is to help students gain experience that they can then directly apply to getting jobs and internships and having hands-on projects. Especially going into the aerospace field, I found most recruiters looking for interns and employees... That's what they're looking for.” Cordon said. We have former members working at SpaceX, Ursa Major, Samar, Blue Origin, Lockheed Martin defense companies, NASA, everywhere you can think of; and it's directly as a result of experiences and projects that they have done with BYU Rocketry — it sets them apart.”
Although the competition is over, the year is just getting started and anyone is welcome to join at any time. The more people that participate, the more they can do. Even if you know nothing about rockets, the rocketry club is glad to have you join as a new member.