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UNL rocket team competes at NASA student launch, April 20

UNL RASC-AL Robo-Ops team photo

Members of the UNL Rocket Team meet with Nebraska-born NASA astronaut Clayton Anderson (in blue) during the 2013 Engineering Week Open House at Othmer Hall on April 12.

A team of University of Nebraska-Lincoln engineers travels to Huntsville, Ala., April 17-21, to go “one mile high” with the rocket they built for the 2013 NASA student launch competition.

The UNL Rocket Team returns for its second year in the University Student Launch Initiative (USLI) contest, versus more than 30 college and university teams. In the spring of 2012, their first time at the event, the Huskers placed third for altitude closest to the goal.

“We were extremely excited to get third (in the altitude competition),” said civil engineering junior Bryan Kubitschek, who leads the Nebraska team. “We beat the Big Ten schools (Michigan, Purdue and Penn State) there, as well as MIT!”

The UNL team is part of a club: the Nebraska student chapter of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA). Six members of the Nebraska group compete in Alabama this year, while some other participating teams bring 15-30 participants. According to NASA, this annual event “challenges teams of enterprising young engineers, scientists and innovators to design, test and build large, high-powered rockets, capable of flying to the target altitude of one mile and carrying working, retrievable science or engineering payloads.”

The teams’ efforts will culminate on launch day, April 20, and NASA will provide live coverage of this year’s USLI event on the social Web service UStream, including embedded Twitter feed (hashtag #1MileHigh) starting Saturday at 8 a.m. Central time; watch for the Nebraska team at http://www.ustream.tv/channel/nasa-msfc.

The UNL team conducted outreach for the past year to earn event points, and led activities for hundreds of guests at the 2013 Nebraska Robotics Expo, the Lincoln Public Schools Science Fair and UNL Engineering Week Open House; UNL AIAA members also mentored a local FIRST Lego League (FLL) youth robotics group. Learn more at the team’s website: http://usli.unlaiaa.com/.

Kubitschek and his twin brother, Paul (a UNL computer engineering student), agree the team has been a great experience in learning High Power Rocket design and construction. The UNL Rocket Team collaborated locally with The Heartland Organization of Rocketry (THOR) for a test launch reaching 3700’, and the Tripoli Rocketry Association helped the team prepare for the competition with launch attempt to 10,000’.

The UNL Rocket Team members traveling to Alabama for NASA’s USLI 2013 are all Nebraskans: Bryan Kubitschek, a junior Civil Engineering student from Lincoln; CJ O'Hara, a freshman Computer Engineering student from Lincoln; Nate Wulf, a junior Mechanical Engineering student from Springfield; Brad Christensen, a junior Mechanical Engineering student from Omaha; and Avery Quandt, a sophomore Computer Engineering student from Broken Bow. Kevin Cole, a professor of Mechanical & Materials Engineering, is the team’s adviser.

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