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Rockets are go

Problem solving and the ability to work collaboratively are critical lessons for any aspiring engineer to learn. And the University of Missouri chapter of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) had a terrific opportunity to flex its muscles in both categories at the 2017 Intercollegiate Rocket Engineering Competition (IREC), hosted by the Experimental Sounding Rocket Association in June.

A man in a ball cap positions a rocket for launch.

A trio of MU AIAA members traveled to New Mexico for the competition, where their rocket, Truman VI, participated in the 10,000 feet, commercial off-the-shelf motor category. Photo courtesy of John McCann.

A trio of MU AIAA members traveled to New Mexico for the competition, where their rocket, Truman VI, participated in the 10,000 feet, commercial off-the-shelf motor category. A mechanical failure hampered the team’s results, but AIAA treasurer Cale Crawford said the team already has a fix for the problem in hand.

“We learned a great deal about what we’re going to do next year,” he explained. “We radically changed our design philosophy.”

The big takeaway from the event, however, was less technical than personal. A total of 130 teams participated in the IREC this year, and Crawford said the free flow of ideas and information, as well as support, made the event worthwhile.

“It all turns into engineers helping engineers and people trading information happily. … It’s people helping people; that’s the best part of it,” he said.

In today’s globally connected world, engineers seeking to solve the next great challenge must possess the ability to work collaboratively with other engineers of different backgrounds. And that lesson was on full display at this year’s IREC.

“The most important part is collaboration, being able to work with other people of different nationalities, different cultures,” Crawford said. “If everyone can just come together and collaborate on ideas that are stumping individuals, we can plow through (challenges) like you wouldn’t believe.”