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Engineering students enjoy NASA RockOn! 2012 workshop

On Thursday, June 21 at 6 a.m. EDT, a 48-foot NASA rocket launched to go more than 70 miles into space while carrying two payloads built by Nebraska Engineering student teams.

“It’s a great hands-on experience,” said UNL Computer Science & Engineering junior Paul Kubitschek. “It’s about as close to working for NASA as a student can get.”

The six Nebraska students--from CSE, Electrical Engineering and Mechanical & Materials Engineering--were in a workshop with RockOn!, offered by Colorado’s Space Grant Program at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.

The UNL students are active in American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) events and earned Nebraska a third place finish at the University Student Launch Initiative competition in Huntsville, Alabama this spring.

In the RockOn! workshop, June 16-21, participants focused on payload work with NASA engineers as mentors, then built their own microcontroller and added sensors to conduct research, including radiation readings, during the rocket’s flight.

UNL's RockOn! participation brings the total to four aerospace activities with Nebraska's AIAA student group this year, according to Kevin Cole, a professor with Mechanical & Materials Engineering who advises UNL’s AIAA teams, which include Design-Build-Fly (airplanes) and Lunabotics (robotics for space exploration).

“I help secure the funding,” Cole said, "but otherwise the students seem to function exclusively on aerospace enthusiasm and energy drinks."

The Nebraska students’ participation is funded by NASA Nebraska Space Grant. Kubitschek said UNL participants hope to return to RockOn! in 2013 with a payload that advances the research of a Nebraska professor whose work would benefit from the launch experience.