Rocket Owls get set to take off

[Courtesy of Citrus College Rocket Owls] Rocket Owls team leader Andrew Ferguson, center, and, from left to right, Carey Gunter, Phoebe Sulzen, Ben Rhodes-Wickett, Jo Jamison and Yu-Han Chiang show their test rocket at Citrus College on Thursday, Oct. 4 2012.

A team of six Citrus students collectively known as the “Rocket Owls” has been selected to participate in the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s “Student Launch Program.”

The Rocket Owls’ design is scheduled to be examined by a panel of scientists and engineers from NASA today. Once it is approved, the Citrus students can begin building their rocket.

The Rocket Owls will be competing with teams from 34 other colleges and universities across the United States in April in Huntsville, Ala. Teams must build and launch a six foot long, reusable rocket that meets specific requirements.

Citrus College is the only California community college and one of seven two-year colleges selected for the competition. Two other teams from California—UC Davis and California Polytechnic University, Pomona—have also been chosen to participate.
The NASA program also includes such schools as Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Northwestern, and Purdue Universities.

“Basically the goals are for us to make a rocket that can go up to an altitude of one mile and carry some sort of scientific payload on board,” said team leader and 26-year-old applied physics major, Andrew Ferguson.

“We have to go through several life cycle stages just like a real NASA project would.”
The team is required to create a website on which they will document the experiment. The preliminary design will be examined via video conference and if it passes the team will begin building.
They must also become involved in community outreach to help raise awareness of educational and professional opportunities in science, technology, engineering and math. The Citrus team hopes to reach 2,000 students in the next six months.

The team has already done demonstrations at Wilson Middle School in Glendale and Stevenson Middle School in Los Angeles, helping students build and launch bottle rockets or parachutes.

“The Rocket Owls plan to raise awareness of the science of rockets and STEM in the community, which is an important part of the USLI project,” said Lucia Riderer, Rocket Owls advisor and Citrus College physics instructor.
The Rocket Owls are a first-year team of six science and engineering students.

The members are Phoebe Sulzen, Yu-Han Chaing, Carey Gunter, Jo Jamison, Benjamin Rhodes-Wickett and Ferguson.

“I love NASA, and I love exploring new areas of engineering so the opportunity to be a part of a NASA project building a rocket was one I couldn’t let by,” said Phoebe Sulzen, a 22-year-old mechanical engineering major.