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Florida School Gets 'Closest to Altitude' at Launch Challenge

Image above: The Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU) team takes home "Closet to Altitude'" award from NASA's Student Launch Initiative. Image credit: FAMU
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There's an old saying that goes, "If at first you don't succeed, pick yourself up and try again." That is exactly what Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU) did during the 2011-12 NASA Student Launch Initiative on Braggs Farm in Toney, Ala., on April 22.

FAMU received the "Closest to Altitude" award, reaching 5,270 feet in the air, a mere 10 feet from the specified mark. This also was a special victory for FAMU, which was unable to launch last year because it did not have a proper landing system.

"Without doubt, the team's biggest triumph was winning the altitude award at the Student Launch Projects Challenge," said Associate Professor Clement Allen, who is the team's advisor.

While the team took home an unexpected award, it faced the dilemma of having to replace members in the midst of the semester change.

"There was near 100 percent turnover in the team from the fall semester to the spring semester," Allen said. "That led to us essentially reforming the team during the spring semester, which was challenging. The challenge was overcome by the talent, enthusiasm and commitment of the new members."

FAMU also is a grantee of NASA's Minority University Research and Education Program (MUREP) Small Projects (MSP), which focuses on minority research and enhancing capabilities of minority schools. The school received the Minority Innovation Challenges Institute (MICI) grant.

Kennedy Space Center MSP Project Manager Theresa Martinez said, "FAMU has exceeded all my expectations. They have participated and excelled in NASA challenges themselves, and through the MICI grant, also have generated the first-time participation of 13 other minority institutions in NASA challenges."

MICI mentors and trains minority undergrad students to compete in NASA technology challenges, allowing them to attend educational sessions with no cost or fee.

Allen added, "I hope the team's success this year will inspire future students to get involved and that next year and in future years more and more students will get involved, and the experiments performed for the project will be increasingly creative."

Brittney Longley,
NASA's John F. Kennedy Space Center