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2017 Student Launch activities at the Bragg Farm in Toney, Alabama

2017 Student Launch activities at the Bragg Farm in Toney, Alabama

A team of engineering students has been selected to participate in NASA’s Student Launch project, which pits 45 teams from across the countryagainst one another in an attempt to overcome a specific challenge.

This year’s competition, held during rocket trials April 4–8 at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, requires teams to build a reusable rocket capable of carrying a payload at least one mile high and successfully landing back on Earth.

Teams have a choice of one of three payloads:

  • a camera that can identify and discern between targets in flight
  • a rover that deploys upon landing, moves at least five feet, and extends solar panels
  • an onboard system that can triangulate a landing within a specified zone

“We made a unanimous decision to go with the rover option,” said Grayson Hawkins, a senior in mechanical engineering who co-leads the team with Theresa Palandro, a senior in aerospace engineering. “We must consider problems such as ‘Can the main axle handle 20 Gs of acceleration?’ and ‘What is the most efficient way to stow the rover during flight?’”

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The Undergraduate Awards (UA) is the world’s largest international academic awards program, recognizing excellent research and original work across the sciences, humanities, business, and creative arts. The top 10 percent of students in their respective categories are honored as Highly Commended. Regional Winners are then chosen from each of the seven regions in the competition, and a final Global Winner is selected in each category.

UT’s winners were Alexandra Brito, a May 2017 graduate, who was named a Global Winner; Sierra Roark, also a May graduate, who was a Regional Winner; and senior Rachel Hunt, who was Highly Commended.

All winners are invited to attend the Global Summit, which will be held Nov. 7–9 in Dublin, Ireland. As a Global Winner, Brito will receive an all-expenses-paid trip to the Global Summit, where she will be presented with a gold medal by Michael Higgins, president of Ireland.

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