MSU Space Cowboys excel at national competition

spacecowboys-300x198STARKVILLE, Miss.— The Mississippi State University Space Cowboys rocket team impressed judges at this year’s NASA’s University Student Launch Initiative (USLI) competition.

The Space Cowboys placed fifth out of 25 teams from across the nation. The team also won the Design Review Award for the best combination of written reviews and formal presentations during competition.

The team began working on this year’s competition last August. The official launch took place April 21 at Bragg Farms in Toney, Ala. Results from the competition, which include rocket performance and rigorous analysis of the technical reports, are not released until June.

The actual rocket launch only takes 20 seconds, but team members say all of the late nights working on it are worth it.

“There is nothing like seeing something you have worked so long on do well,” said Mary Kate Smith, project manager since 2011.

The USLI is an annual competition that challenges students to construct a rocket that is capable of reaching up to a mile in altitude upon its launch. Each rocket carries an engineering or scientific payload or experiment designed by the individual teams.

The Space Cowboy’s rocket contained three payloads including an aerospike, a system that maintains aerodynamic efficiency by using two blunt bodies in tandem; and a science mission directorate lander and mast relay systems, which assist in transmitting data from the rocket to the ground crew.

Earlier this year, the team’s outreach activities won the community outreach at the American Institute for Aeronautics and Astronautics Region II Student Conference. This was the group’s third consecutive win at that competition.

The team’s outreach efforts included sponsoring Mississippi Space Week, visiting schools to teach elementary and middle school-aged children about aerospace engineering. The students also developed a Muppet-like character named Goddard to help make the science more accessible to young age groups.

“We talk about the ‘do-ability’ of rocket science,” said Smith, who created the fuzzy, purple, space-loving puppet.

The team’s various subgroups, like outreach, allow the students to gain experience in a broad range of areas from technical skills and financial management to website development and writing.

“As chief engineer, I have learned many leadership skills along with the technical skills required in my field,” Joseph St. Columbia said.

He continued, “The Space Cowboys’ purpose is to provide students with real world applications in aerospace engineering, as well as other engineering disciplines such as electrical and mechanical,” St. Columbia said. “The team also allows the students to build collaborative relationships among other students, faculty, outside vendors, and major partners such as NASA.”

While most of the team members are engineering students, membership is not limited to specific majors—only those who have a love for space flight.

“We put in copious amount of hours of work so we look for students who are passionate about rocketry,” Smith said.

Established in 2006, the team is advised by aerospace engineering professor Keith Koenig. For more information about the Space Cowboys, visit their website at http://msuspacecowboys.org/.

Team Members by hometown:

ARKADELPHIA, Ark.— Stephen Westberg, senior aerospace engineering major, is a member of the science mission directorate lander subteam.

BATESVILLE, Miss.— Margaret “Margie” Woodall, senior aerospace engineering major, is a member of the recovery subteam.

BRANDON, Miss.— Blair Schumacher, relay subteam leader, is a junior aerospace engineering major. Marian “Tinsley” Colmer, a senior aerospace engineering major, is part of the science mission directorate lander subteam.

DURI, Riau, Indonesia— Listiawan Jundi Waskito-Hadi, senior aerospace engineering major, is a member of the structures and propulsion subteam.

ELIZABETHTOWN, Ky.— Jacob Beard, a forestry graduate student, is a member of the relay subteam.

EUPORA, Miss.— Sophomore aerospace engineering major Laurel Marsh is a member of the relay subteam.

GREENWOOD, Miss.— Joseph “Phillip” Douglas, senior aerospace engineering major, is part of the structures and propulsion subteam.

HELENA, Ala.— Ian Detwiller, a doctoral student in aerospace engineering, is the aerospike subteam leader.

HELENA, Ark.— Joseph St. Columbia, a junior aerospace engineering major, is the chief engineer for the team.

HUNTSVILLE, Ala.— Eric Stallcup, a member of the aerospike subteam, is a sophomore aerospace engineering major.

IRONDALE, Ala.— Senior art major Carlyse Williams is a member of the structures and propulsion subteam.

JACKSON, Miss.— Sophomore aerospace engineering major Deanna Brown is a member of the structures and outreach subteams. Doug Simpson, junior aerospace engineering major, is part of the recovery subteam.

KOSSUTH, Miss.— James Kelly serves as a graduate assistant adviser and can be seen as Goddard’s academic friend Dr. Rocket in the team’s educational video series.

LAFAYETTE, La.— Senior aerospace engineering major Robert Simmers is a member of the structures and propulsion subteam.

MADISON, Ala.— Peter Wetzel, a junior aerospace engineering major, is the structures and propulsion subteam leader.

MADISON, Miss.— Senior aerospace engineering major Mary Kate Smith serves as the Space Cowboys project manager.

NEW ORLEANS, La.— Tim McGrath, a junior aerospace engineering major, is part of the relay subteam.

OAK GROVE, Miss.— Senior aerospace engineering major Paromita Mitra is a member of the science mission directorate lander subteam.

ORANGE BEACH, Ala.— Sophomore aerospace engineering major Amy Sanford specializes in outreach activities.

POPLARVILLE, Miss.— Joshua Bowman, a senior aerospace engineering major, is a member of the aerospike subteam.

PELAHATCHIE, Miss.— Senior aerospace engineering major Chris Wilson is a member of the relay subteam.

SLIDELL, La.— Sophomore computer science major, Christian Simmers is a member of the relay subteam.

STARKVILLE, Miss.— Senior aerospace engineering major Luke Peterson is the recovery subteam leader. Nathan Lewis, a graduate aerospace engineering student, is an adviser to the team.

STRINGER, Miss— Nathan Byrd, senior aerospace engineering major, is a member of the relay subteam. He also provides the voice of Goddard.

TYLERTOWN, Miss.— Head of the science mission directorate lander subteam, Clayton Mord, is a senior aerospace engineering major with a concentration in astronautics.

Categories Awards & Recognition, Graduate, News, Undergraduate | Posted on July 17, 2013

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