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UMD Students Win Rocketry Competition

Rocket Launching
The UMD rocket takes off for its winning performance.
A group of UMD (University of Minnesota Duluth) students propelled their rocket 5,315 feet high to win the Midwest Space Grant High Power Rocketry Competition. They are at the top of their rocketry game. In May 2015, the team from the Swenson College of Science and Engineering (SCSE) competed against schools from all over the country at the Midwest Space Grant High Power Rocketry Competition in North Branch, Minn. UMD placed first, based on rocket height, separation, rotation, video quality, and team presentations.

The UMD champion team competed as part of a class with UMD Associate Professor Ryan Rosandich from the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering. The team members were: Tessa Bakken, Jordan Gaytan, Cody Graupmann, Eric Klevar, Jade Lecocq, Curt Myers, Joel Stomberg, and Chase Warnecke.

The rocketry class is a high level mechanical engineering course within SCSE. However, students from any discipline can participate in this annual competition by joining the UMD Rocketry Club.

Bakken is a senior and helped coordinate logistics for the team. She explained the two section design of the rocket, “It’s a boosted dart competition so we have a booster section housing a motor and a top section, the dart, which separates after a motor ejection.”

Both sections deploy parachutes to float back to earth, hopefully intact, for multiple launches. The team whose rocket goes the highest gets a lot of points, but separation, rotation, video quality and team presentations also help determine the final outcome. According to Bakken, the rockets’ motor only burns for 1.1 seconds but manages to propel their rocket to a height of 5,315 feet or just over a mile.

The students start from scratch with basic guidelines and work together to decide on materials and blueprints. They then assemble the rockets complete with cameras and instruments to measure altitude. High tech modeling equipment and 3D printers are often used to create parts for their original design.

Rosandich said, "This was a very challenging competition, as nearly half of the teams were unable to have a successful flight and safe recovery. To compete so successfully against many teams of aerospace engineering students from large universities says a lot about the capabilities of our mechanical engineering students."

Bakken plans to pursue a career in rocket science. "Working on this rocket was one of the coolest things I've experienced in my life,” she said. “Being able to design, build, and see this rocket fly and win, was a blast and an opportunity I will never forget." Fellow team member Gaytan added, “We were surprised to find out we won because there were so many extraordinary teams in the competition. The whole experience working on the rocket has been incredible.”

In 2014, SCSE enrolled 3,050 undergraduate and 220 graduate students. The college is home to ten academic departments, in addition to the Large Lakes Observatory, the UMD Air Force ROTC program, and the Iron Range Engineering program, and connects students with hands-on research opportunities through its collaboration with multiple research institutions and area businesses. To learn more about SCSE visit:

Student group Students at the computer
Team members (l to r): Cody Graupmann, Jordan Gaytan,Tessa Bakken, Erik Klevar, Jade Lecocq and Curt Myers. Dr. Ryan Rosandich and team members watch video recorded by the rocket's camera. 
Tracking the rocket The Launch
Joel Stromberg and Chase Warnecke track the rocket's path. Recovering the rocket. 

Written by Valerie Coit, Cheryl Reitan, and Elise Viger, June 2015.

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