NWIC Space Center joins 2012 NASA competition

Northwest Indian College (NWIC) Space Center students will go toe to toe with students in colleges and universities across the nation in NASA’s University Student Launch Initiative (USLI) competition.

On Oct. 17, Space Center advisor Gary Brandt was notified that NWIC’s proposal was accepted and his students will again get to participate in NASA’s student rocket building competition against top universities such as MIT, Vanderbilt University, Purdue University and the University of Washington.

NWIC was the second tribal college to join the national competition, and this year Haskell Indian Nations University will also participate.

Last year was NWIC’s first as a USLI competitor — NWIC students came in 17th out of 33 teams. The students’ experience in last year’s competition will be hugely beneficial going into the competition this year, Brandt said.

“Experience is priceless,” Brandt said. “We know what is supposed to happen and how to better prepare ourselves.”

That experience will be especially helpful this year — competition requirements this year are more challenging than last year.

The student teams will need to create a rocket that can fly to 5,280 feet into the air. For every foot short of that height, teams will lose one point, but they have to be careful not to go over too— for every foot exceeding 5,280 feet, teams will lose two points.

In addition to building and launching their rocket, NWIC’s team, Team Sky Walkers, will launch devices that collect atmospheric data, UV, solar irradiance, humidity, barometric pressure and temperature, and transmit that data to their ground station. Their rocket must also be equipped with a camera that can take properly oriented— sky on top, ground on the bottom— photos while in the air and on the ground.

The eight-month-long project includes delivering three presentations to NASA representatives, as well as writing and compiling four reports, which are typically greater than 125 pages in length.

In addition to building a rocket for the NASA competition, the NWIC Space Center was also awarded a grant by NASA’s Exploration Systems Mission Directorate for $4,000 to build and fly a rocket with a system that can stop it at a predetermined altitude.

“We are off to a busy year,” Brandt said.

You can follow the NWIC Space Team’s progress at blogs.nwic.edu/rocketteam.