NASA announced winners of the challenge this week. Vanderbilt University was the overall champion of the April 11 event at Bragg Farms in Toney, Ala., near NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville. About 35 college teams from 18 states and Puerto Rico participated.

In addition to its second-place overall finish, the UofL team brought home awards for vehicle design, project review and safety.

River City Rocketry consists of students from the J.B. Speed School of Engineering who share an interest in aerospace and aeronautics. UofL doesn’t offer a formal aerospace program – as many of its competitors do – so the students design and build their rocket on their own time.

Emily Robison, a three-year member of River City Rocketry, said strong performances at the NASA event have earned the team a place among the most elite competitors there.

“It proves a lot,” she said. “We can hold our own with them. I think it speaks a lot to our school and the team itself.”

Participants in the student launch program spend eight months designing, building and testing small high-powered rockets, scientific payloads and ground support equipment using the same launch criteria as NASA. They also maintain websites that document their work and create local educational campaigns to share their enthusiasm for rocketry.

Robison said the UofL team spends an average of 20 hours a week preparing for the competition and once devoted 40 hours to the project in a single weekend.

“There are times when we are really stressed,” she said. “The rocket team – it is my job.”

John Karman, III
John Karman joined the Office of Communications and Marketing in 2014 after a 20-plus year career as a Louisville journalist. He has served as director of media relations since 2015. In that role, he answers reporters’ inquiries and is the university’s main spokesperson. John was a reporter for Business First of Louisville from 1999 to 2013. There, he won numerous awards from the Louisville chapter of the Society for Professional Journalists and American City Business Journals, parent company to Business First. John can die happy after seeing the Chicago Cubs win the 2016 World Series, although he would also enjoy another title.