HUNTSVILLE, Ala., June 4, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- For the past nine months, 46 teams strived for success in NASA's 2021 Student Launch competition, one of NASA's Artemis Student Challenges. Countless hours were poured into the design, simulation, construction, testing, and launch of rockets and payloads. On June 3, teams were awarded during a virtual ceremony, announcing the University of North Carolina at Charlotte as the winner of the Launch Division and New York University in New York City as the winner of the Design Division.
NASA Administrator Sen. Bill Nelson welcomed teams to the ceremony, encouraging them to continue to pursue their academic interests beyond the competition. "This year's challenge will hopefully serve as an inspiration for a lifetime of learning," he said. "Someday it may be you designing a new spaceflight system or spacecraft or even a vehicle to land on another planet." Nelson also gave a nod to the unique circumstances of competing during a year affected by the global pandemic. "This season wasn't easy. It wasn't normal. But you all succeeded despite the challenges. So congratulations to all of you for seeing this mission to completion."
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Student Launch program team proactively designed the 2021 competition with provisions to allow for a virtual season. Teams were permitted to use multiple connections to attend all milestone review sessions, including the preliminary design, critical design, and flight readiness reviews – which alleviated the need for all team members to be in the same room or location during their presentations to the NASA review panel. Teams were not required to travel to Huntsville, Alabama, to complete the project and compete. Instead, they were permitted to complete their competition launch at a National Association of Rocketry or Tripoli Rocket Association-sanctioned launch in their respective local areas.
At the awards, Larry Leopard, Marshall's associate director, technical, reminded students to "appreciate every moment when everything worked as planned, and learn from those times when they did not. Support each and every member of your team. Most importantly, never lose the sense of curiosity that leads you to ask the 'what if' questions."
Every year, NASA challenges middle school, high school, college, and university students from around the United States to design, build, test, and then fly and land a high-powered amateur rocket to between 3,500 and 5,500 feet above the ground. The young rocketeers are challenged to "call their shot" and predict their rocket's altitude months in advance of competition launch day using rocketry principles and computer simulations. Referred to as their "target altitude," teams can tailor their altitude to maximize the return of scientific value from their payload, just like NASA teams target specific altitudes for their own missions.
This year, the college/university division's payload mission was a lander that deploys from the rocket during descent. The lander must land upright or contain a system to upright itself. The lander must level itself to within 5 degrees of vertical and then take a 360-degree panoramic image of the location and transmit the image back to the team. Teams in the middle/high school division could choose the college/university division payload or propose their own scientific or engineering experiment to perform.
"We are all aware of how difficult this season has been," said Fred Kepner, an education program specialist and lead for Student Launch at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, where the program is managed. "Though we were not able to celebrate these achievements in person, we are proud of the resilience shown by each of our competing teams."
The University of North Carolina at Charlotte will receive $5,000 for first place in the Launch Division, and New York University will receive $2,500 for first place in the Design Division.
The top five teams in the Launch Division are:
University of North Carolina at Charlotte
University of Notre Dame
North Carolina State University
The top three teams in the Design Division are:
New York University
University of California, Los Angeles
The Ohio State University
Teams earn points for progress and successes during the nine-month competition, and the team with the most points wins. Awards also are presented in 12 different categories that range from payload design and safety to best social media presence and STEM – science, technology, engineering and mathematics – outreach.
2021 Category Award Winners
Rookie Award, presented to the top rookie team on the college and university level:
1st Place: Washington University in St. Louis, St. Louis, Missouri
2nd Place: New York University, New York, New York
3rd Place: University of North Dakota, Grand Forks, North Dakota
Judges' Choice Award (Middle/High School Level), presented to the middle or high school team that is selected by a secret panel of judges to have had the most creative payload, best design and workmanship of its rocket.
1st Place: Sylvania Northview High School, Sylvania, Ohio
2nd Place: Harrison Central School District, Harrison, New York
3rd Place: Whitney M. Young Magnet High School, Chicago, Illinois
Vehicle Design Award (Design Division), presented to the team with the most creative, innovative and safety-conscious overall rocket design:
1st Place: University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California
Experiment Design Award (Design Division), presented to the team with the most creative and innovative payload design while maximizing safety and science value:
1st Place: The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio
Experiment Design Award (Launch Division), presented to the team with the most creative and innovative payload design while maximizing safety and science value:
1st Place: University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Charlotte, North Carolina
Best-Looking Rocket Award (Middle/High School Level), presented to the middle or high school team that is judged by its peers to have had the best-looking rocket:
1st Place: Sylvania Northview High School, Sylvania, Ohio
2nd Place: St. Vincent – St. Mary High School, Akron, Ohio
3rd Place: Oakton High School, Vienna, Virginia
Team Spirit Award (College Level, any division), presented to the college or university team that is judged by its peers to have had the best team spirit:
1st Place: Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama
2nd Place: California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, California
3rd Place: University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, Indiana
Team Spirit (Middle/High School Level), presented to the middle or high school team that is judged by its peers to have had the best team spirit:
1st Place: Harrison Central School District, Harrison, New York
2nd Place: Madison West High School, Madison, Wisconsin
3rd Place: Sylvania Northview High School, Sylvania, Ohio
For over 20 years, Student Launch has provided a realistic experience to students that resembles the development, test, and operational lifecycle NASA and industry engineers use when developing and operating new hardware. It is one of the seven Artemis Student Challenges.
Marshall's Office of STEM Engagement manages Student Launch to stimulate innovation and advance NASA's mission through collaboration with educational institutions and students – the next-generation that will help us explore the Moon and travel even farther to Mars. It also furthers NASA's goal of attracting and encouraging students to pursue degrees and careers in the STEM fields. NASA's Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate and the Office of STEM Engagement, as well as Northrop Grumman, the Huntsville chapter of the National Space Club, American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, the National Association of Rocketry, and Bastion Technologies provide funding and leadership for the initiative.
For more information about NASA's Student Launch, visit: