College students compete for $5K prize in NASA rocket launch

College students compete for $5K prize in NASA rocket launch

HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - Students from across the nation had the chance of a lifetime today launching rockets with NASA right in the Tennessee Valley.

This wasn't just a science fair project, this was the real deal. College students from Alabama, Illinois, Maryland, and 20 other states worked for months designing rockets all for a $5,000 top prize.

The rockets not only had to launch, they had to fly to an altitude of one mile, deploy an automated parachute system, and safely land where they were recovered. Sounds simple, but some students found hitting the right altitude was the toughest part.

"We had a successful flight, our altitude was a little lower than we wanted," said Lui Suzuki, who was competing with the University of Illinois. "We wanted to go a mile, but we landed a little bit lower than that, around 500 feet lower. But I was happy with our flight. It went smoothly, nothing went wrong, and our recovery was successful and that was the important part."

Other students were not so lucky at the competition.

"Unfortunately, we were there sitting. It had been about 30 minutes on the launch pad, and one of our ejection charges blew on the ground that was supposed to blow in the air... and obviously that's not good. So we had to break it down, bring it back, and go through a lot of troubleshooting, and figure out exactly what caused it," said Andy Bonn of the U.S. Naval Academy's team.

The Marshall Space Flight Center is trying to challenge, inspire, and attract young engineers.

There were other competitions students participated in throughout the week, and awards will be announced at a banquet at the Davidson Center on Saturday night.

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