NASA student challenges get under way

Almost 50 high school, college and university teams from 22 states across the US are taking part in NASA challenges to build and launch a rocket, and develop autonomous robotic systems for Mars exploration.

(Credit: NASA)
(Credit: NASA)

NASA Student Launch sees teams designing and building a rocket, launching it to a height of one mile, and deploying an automated parachute system to return the rocket safely to earth. Teams participate in a series of design reviews that are submitted to NASA via a team-developed website. The process is intended to mirror the NASA engineering lifecycle, with design reviews, a flight-readiness review, and a launch-readiness review that includes a safety briefing. Payload and flight data must also be analysed in a post-launch assessment.

The event, which takes place on Saturday April 16, 2016 in Toney, Alabama, will see students compete for a $5,000 cash prize. Earlier in the week students will compete for a share of a $50,000 prize in the second annual Mars Ascent Vehicle (MAV) Challenge, being held at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Centre in nearby Huntsville, Alabama. The event is designed to answer the need for autonomous robotic systems in space exploration, with teams challenged to design and build a system capable of retrieving and storing samples.

Together, the two competitions are intended to engage students in NASA’s Journey to Mars programme through hands-on STEM-related activities. Both events will be will be live streamed here, with the MAV Challenge taking place today between 14.30 and 21.30 BST, and Student Launch getting under way at 12.30 BST on Saturday.