Search Marshall


Text Size

Link to Marshall Newsroom home page

For release: 04/26/04
Release #: 04-122  

NASA Student Launch Initiative, April 30-May 1
Students from Alabama, Maryland, Indiana and New York test their rocket building skills at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center

Photo description: Student teams prepare to launch their rocket during last year's Student Launch Initiative.

Ten high school and college teams from four states – Alabama, Indiana, Maryland and New York — will show engineers if they have the right stuff at NASA's Student Launch Initiative. Students will showcase rockets they built during the school year at a fair Friday, April 30, at the Marshall Center. On Saturday, May 1, they'll launch their rockets in front of hundreds of rocketeers as part of "Southern Thunder 2004" — a regional model rocket competition — in Manchester, Tenn.

Photo: Student teams prepare to launch their rocket during last year's Student Launch Initiative. (NASA/MSFC)

High school and college students from four states will go the extra mile to prove their rocket-building skills in a two-day event sponsored by NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., in collaboration with the Arnold Engineering Development Center at Arnold Air Force Base in Tullahoma, Tenn. The students make up 10 teams that will showcase and launch reusable rockets they designed and built during the school year as part of NASA's Student Launch Initiative.

Teams will present their rocket designs to engineers at the Student Launch Initiative Fair at the Marshall Center Friday, April 30. On the following day, Saturday, May 1, students will launch their rockets with hundreds of rocketeers from across the country cheering them on, as part of "Southern Thunder 2004" — expected to be one of the largest regional rocket events in the United States . The launch will be near Manchester, Tenn., at Hickerson Field — a 1,500-acre sod farm. "Southern Thunder 2004" is co-hosted by the Music City Missile Club in Nashville, Tenn., the Huntsville Area Rocketry Association, and the Smokey Mountain Amateur Rocketry Team in Knoxville, Tenn.

The Student Launch Initiative is an education program designed to allow high school and college students to experience practical aerospace and engineering activities. Working in teams, students demonstrate proof-of-concept for their designs, develop Web sites dedicated to their work, learn how to budget — including how to present financial proposals to NASA engineers and community leaders — and gain problem-solving skills.

"It's important for NASA to fuel students' interest in careers in science and engineering," said Jim Pruitt, manager of the Education Programs Department at the Marshall Center . "This initiative gives students hands-on experience building and launching rockets — to inspire the next generation of space explorers, and help our nation prepare our young people for the challenges ahead."

At the launch, student teams will attempt to reach an altitude of one mile with their rockets, and college teams will attempt to send their rockets two-miles high. All rockets will carry a scientific payload. The teams will be evaluated on their rocket design, including propulsion, materials, payload and safety features. NASA volunteers also will look at the target altitude, formal reviews and Web site designs.

High schools participating in the 2004 Student Launch Initiative include Johnson High School, New Century Technology High School and Lee High School in Huntsville, Ala.; Bob Jones High School in Madison, Ala.; Athens Bible School in Athens, Ala.; Boonsboro High School in Boonsboro, Md.; Goshen High School in Goshen, Ind.; and Manlius Pebble Hill School in Dewitt, N.Y. College teams participating in the event include Alabama A&M University in Huntsville and the University of Alabama in Huntsville.

This is the first year the Student Launch Initiative program has invited out-of-state schools to join Huntsville-area schools in the launch event. The three out-of-state teams in the lineup were chosen from teams that entered the 2003 Team America Rocketry Challenge held last May at Great Meadows in The Plains, Virginia. That national model rocket competition challenges teams of high school and middle school students to build a rocket with two stages, weighing less than 3.3 pounds, and powered by commercially made model rocket engines. The rockets must carry a payload of two raw Grade A large eggs to 1,250 feet, while functioning safely and returning the eggs without breaking or cracking them. The top 10 teams at the 2003 challenge were invited to submit proposals to participate in this year's Student Launch Initiative.

Huntsville-area teams were chosen to participate in the rocketry program through a selection process involving NASA scientists, engineers, and education specialists. NASA sent out a request for proposals to local schools and colleges, within a 50-mile radius of the city of Huntsville, Ala. Award winning high school teams received a $2,500 grant and colleges received a $15,000 grant to participate in the event.

For more information about NASA's Student Launch Initiative and the Team America Rocketry Challenge on the internet, please visit:

For more information:
New flagNews release
New flagPhoto

Martin Jensen
Public Affairs Office
(256) 544-0034

Graphic for line


Get releases sent directly to you!
Betty Humphery

Graphic for line