NWIC rocket club takes 1st at national competition

For the second year in a row, the NWIC Space Center rocket team finished first in the First Nations Rocket Launch, this time in the engineering American Indian Society of Engineers and Scientists (AISES) challenge. The team also finished 12th out of the 41 teams that took part in the 2012 NASA University Student Launch Initiative competition.

At the First Nations Rocket Launch, NWIC was up against such noteworthy competitors as UCLA, the University of Minnesota and Haskel Indian Nations University.

NWIC team members arrived at the competition site, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, late on Thursday, April 26, had pizza, practiced the oral presentation and awaited Friday morning, when they would prepare their rocket for Saturday’s launch.

“The challenge this year was to keep the rocket’s center of gravity stationary throughout the boost phase. This meant compensating for the spent fuel during the 8.5 second motor burn – an interesting challenge,” said Gary Brandt, team advisor and NWIC instructor.

The team elected to expel an equivalent amount of water mass at the same rate (27.2 grams per second) as the 80 grams per second of fuel burning.

At 1:30 p.m. on Friday, Team Sky Walkers gave its presentation.

“Our people excelled,” Brandt said. “They know what they are talking about. They know the physics, and they know how to present the information.”

Then came Saturday – it was windy and rainy. The rain stopped and the NWIC team was the first to launch.

“Sky Arrow lifted off beautifully,” Brandt said. “Then, when it was about 150 feet in the air, a particularly strong wind gust hit and it weather-cocked into the wind, attaining a near horizontal flight path.”

About two seconds into the motor burn, the rocket started to spiral around its longitudinal axis with each spiral becoming larger. The team watched as the forward two thirds of the rocket headed towards the ground while the motor kept burning and disappeared out of sight.

Team Sky Walkers recovered the upper portion of the rocket along with the expensive instruments, but never found the motor and fin section. Weather impacted the launches of other teams as well.

Team Sky Walkers finished first in their division at the First Nations Rocket Launch, followed by the University of Minnesota and UCLA.