The Speed School of Engineering students soared past 34 teams to place behind victor Vanderbilt University and won three of six awards given: best vehicle design for the most creative, innovative and safety-conscious rocket; best Web design for its site for the second consecutive year; and the education engagement award for its outreach efforts at UofL’s Engineering Expo, Louisville Science Center and area schools.

“The team this year was phenomenal,” said its captain, Owensboro mechanical engineering graduate student Nick Greco.

The 15-member team raised money for and designed, built, launched, documented and showed their 9-foot-1-inch, 40-pound rocket and its red-and-black parachute to more than 1,700 curious younger students and educators during several months of preparation for the April 21 launch near NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.

 That launch went well for the UofL team, with all “mission-critical” systems working; the craft flew to 4,713 feet and landed less than a quarter-mile away from the launch pad, Greco said.

Teams had to wait until this month after their final reports were submitted and judged to learn the order of finish in the competition.

Greco said the fiberglass rocket was a little heavier and the altitude a little lower than the team would have liked but this year’s addition of a cellphone inside was economical and successful despite some software snafus.

“We proved that is a very viable method for transmitting data and communicating,” Greco said.

Although Greco is due to graduate later this year, several of the 2012‒13 team members plan to compete next year. “We just don’t want to see it end,” he said.

Greco can start applying what he learned very soon. He will return to Marshall Space Flight Center next month for an internship.

Here’s the launch video.


Judy Hughes
Judy Hughes is a senior communications and marketing coordinator for UofL’s Office of Communications and Marketing and associate editor of UofL Magazine. She previously worked in news as a writer and editor for a daily newspaper and The Associated Press.