Tarleton Team Takes First Place in NASA Student Launch Initiative

Tarleton took first place in the Design Division of the annual NASA Student Launch Initiative. Team members are, from left: Dr. Ruaa Al Mezrakchi, Justin Faterkowski, Jay Greene, Zach Dulany, Matthew Gass, Austin Davidson, Zackery Watson, Jackson Black, Evan Jones, Austen McKee, McKenzie Gamster, Renato Rios and Juliana Rodriguez. Not pictured are Cameron Deanda, Tyler Ashley, Keelin Kutil, Chance Worthington, Jayce Thedford and Audrey Kacur.

STEPHENVILLE — Tarleton State University captured first-place honors in the Design Division of NASA’s annual Student Launch Initiative.

The 19-member team of mechanical engineering, electrical engineering and computer science students won the Experiment Design Award for the most creative and innovative payload design while maximizing safety and science.

Sixty teams from 22 states including Puerto Rico participated. Results were announced in a virtual ceremony June 2.

“Competing against some of the top universities in the nation, our student team’s triumph testifies to the exceptional quality of Tarleton’s engineering and computer science programs,” said Dr. Jun Xu, head of the Department of Mechanical, Environmental and Civil Engineering.

Tarleton’s team consisted of Dr. Ruaa Al Mezrakchi, faculty advisor; Austen McKee and Austin Davidson, team co-leaders; Evan Jones, Zackery Watson, Jackson Black, Matthew Gass, Tyler Ashley, Justin Faterkowski, Cameron Deanda, Keelan Kutil, Chance Worthington, Jayce Thedford, Juliana Rodriguez, Renato Rios, McKenzie Gamster, Audrey Kacur, Zach Dulaney and Jay Greene.

Each year NASA challenges middle school, high school, college and university students from across the United States to design, build and launch a high-powered amateur rocket, fly it to an altitude of 4,000-6,000 feet and then land it successfully.

NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., hosts the event. This year’s competition played out over nine months.

“Programs like NASA’s Student Launch are part of a greater process to prepare a new generation of scientists, engineers, astronauts and explorers to pick up the torch and carry out the next missions. These students are the next generation — the Artemis Generation,” NASA Deputy Administrator Pam Melroy told the teams. “There are so many opportunities before them, and they should be so proud of what they’ve accomplished and learned in Student Launch. I encourage all of our participants to maintain a curiosity to learn and to explore.”

For more than 20 years Student Launch has provided a realistic experience that resembles the development, test and operational lifecycle NASA and industry engineers use when developing and operating new hardware. For more information about NASA’s Student Launch, visit: https://www.nasa.gov/stem/studentlaunch/home/index.html.

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