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Mizzou AIAA recognized for innovation, places fourth at competition

The Mizzou chapter of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics received fourth place and was named runner-up for the R. Gilbert Moore innovation award at the 2014 Experimental Sounding Rocket Association’s Intercollegiate Rocket Engineering Competition (ESRA IREC).

Launch

The Mizzou chapter of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics received fourth place and was named runner-up for the R. Gilbert Moore innovation award at the 2014 Experimental Sounding Rocket Association’s Intercollegiate Rocket Engineering Competition (ESRA IREC). Photo courtesy of Doug Gerrard.

Five members of Mizzou AIAA traveled to the Utah desert June 25-28. Team President Jonathan Jennings said some overnight modifications to the team’s rocket, “Truman 4.5,” led to the recognition for innovation. The team’s rocket did not align properly on the launch pad during the team’s first attempt to launch. What was originally a dual-stage rocket — made from two components that would launch sequentially, one while in air — became a single-stage rocket.

“We were cutting aluminum strips to affix the two rockets together and then used a mix of epoxy and pancake mix from the hotel to make a filler that was used to fill gaps and make the rocket more aerodynamic,” Jennings said.

This is the third IREC competition in which the Mizzou team has participated and the second for Jennings as president. The team spends a year preparing for the competition, in which they build the rocket and crunch numbers to predict its flight pattern. Jennings said they aren’t allowed to launch the rocket because of airspace restrictions in Missouri.

Also this year, Mizzou’s AIAA also hosted a rocket camp, called March Sky, for area middle and high school students. One of the camp’s activities was to design a payload, for which AIAA members picked the best design, and incorporated it into this year’s rocket.

Teams earn points based on activities leading up to and during the competition. The points contribute to overall placement. There are two categories in which teams may compete — basic and advanced. Truman 4.5 launched once in the basic category. It reached a maximum altitude of 8,600 feet and a max velocity of 514 miles per hour. It launched at a rate of 754 feet per second.

“There’s a presentation given during the competition and a technical paper I wrote before,” Jennings said. “We’re also required to provide monthly updates for ejection testing, which was required to do testing for ejection.

“You also get points for having more hand-built parts, for having safety plan and for the K-12 payload design.”

The team earned points for its mature demeanor during the launch and received praise for the amount of hand-built parts on the rocket, Jennings added.

“We make all of our stuff by hand,” he said. “One of the judges called us ‘scrappy,’ but he was looking for that — students who could build engines and not just run simulations on a computer.”

Next year, Jennings said the team hopes to make parts to “machine precision” and run more simulations.