Published: April 19, 2018 By

Alyvia Hildebrand works in the lab

Junior Alyvia Hildebrand works on the CU Engineering team's entry into the Ninth Annual First Nations Launch.

This week, five CU Engineering students will compete against 14 other teams at the Ninth Annual First Nations Launch in Wisconsin sponsored by the Wisconsin Space Grant Consortium. The team, led by junior Alyvia Hildebrand (MechEngr’19), first heard about the competition in late September. Bruno Amas (ElEngrCompSci’20), Gabe Funtanilla (MAeroEngr’19), Aaron Ashley (MAeroEngr’18) and Mason Moran (AeroEngr’21) are the other members of the team.

Hildebrand, a member of the CU Boulder chapter of American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES), learned about it from Jenna Greenwood, assistant director of BOLD programs and student engagement in The BOLD Center.

“I’d launched some very small rockets in middle school, but I’d never launched anything like this. These are high-powered rockets designed to launch 4,000 feet into the air,” Hildebrand said. “This is my first rocket competition and the first time that CU has participated in this specific competition. I’d dropped some activities, but this came across my path, and I decided to go for it. First prize is a trip for the team to a NASA center.”

The team of five CU Engineering students, both undergraduate and graduate students, barely knew each other when they got started. Hildebrand announced the competition through the AISES network, and the five Buffs joined a teleconference in September to learn about the competition. From that point on, they were all in.

Aaron Ashley, a graduate student in aerospace engineering, had some model rocket experience, but this was fairly new to all of them. The team has received project funds and textbooks through the Wisconsin Space Grant, and they’ve been teaching each other and learning a lot along the way.

Students work on the rocket creationAnd it’s not all about rockets or engineering. Hildebrand says that she’s “learned a lot about time and team management, delegation and balancing the workload with everyone’s busy schedules.”

It’s hard to know how they stack up against other teams because the Wisconsin Space Grant Consortium isn’t saying much about the competition. They do know that they are among the top teams producing on-time results for the pre-competition testing and reporting. They are hoping that the final launch in Wisconsin, which counts for 50 percent of the score, goes well.

The 8.92 pound rocket is not just going for height, though. Each team must design a scientific payload. The CU Boulder rocket will make use of its altimeter to test actual properties of the air at apogee, such as temperature and air density, which the team will compare to textbook measurements at the given altitudes.

Hildebrand, who is keeping a keen eye on the Colorado School of Mines team that will also be at the launch, said that “it’ll be really rewarding when we actually launch it, and hopefully it goes well and represents CU Engineering well, too.”

Maria Kuntz is the assistant director for communications, inclusion and community in the College of Engineering & Applied Science.