UIC rocket team wins first place
March 1, 2019

The University of Illinois at Chicago’s Spaceport America Cup-winning team at the International Collegiate Rocket Engineering Competition.

The University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) chapter of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) recently won first place in the 30K Solid Rocket-Student Research and Developed Components category during the second annual Spaceport America Cup at the Intercollegiate Rocket Engineering Competition (IREC) at the Las Cruces Convention Center in New Mexico.

The team of mechanical and industrial engineering students at the College of Engineering and computer science students competed with its first student-built motor as they successfully flew it and recovered it.

This achievement marks UIC’s first time capturing first place at IREC. The team also captured a third-place win with its commercial rocket. The students flew both rockets to approximately 30,000 feet, topping schools including Purdue, Stanford, and the University of Minnesota.

The Spaceport America Cup is a partnership between the Experimental Sounding Rocket Association and the New Mexico Spaceport Authority to host and support a week of events that set the background and provide the structure for the world’s largest university rocket engineering competition.

This event continues IREC’s work with student design teams from across the country and around the world. The competition brought together university students from ten countries to compete in six categories that included launching and recovering rockets at the spaceport. Nearly 124 teams with approximately 1,500 participants competed.

Apart from flying the rocket to a set height, judges evaluated teams based on a technical report and progress reports.

“You also have to recover the rocket and show it to the judges to make sure it’s re-flyable,” said student Patrick Begalowski.

“Both of our rockets are immediately re-flyable,” added student Michal Pekala.

The UIC team was one of only 25 teams accepted to participate in a podium session, where they presented the rocket they are working on with assistant professor Patrick Lynch.

UIC team members attending the competition were mechanical and industrial engineering students Pekala, Begalowski, Matthew Valenzeno, Rachel Cruz, James Huffaker, and Marcin Maksimowicz along with computer science students Thomas Hein and Corey Habel.

The AIAA chapter at UIC is a student run organization dedicated to studying aerospace and propulsion engineering. The club formed in 2011 to provide an outlet for students interested in aerospace engineering. Apart from high-powered rockets, the students design and build remote controlled aircraft and quad-copters.

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