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Aero Mavericks mentor high school students

Northstar School students work on their rocket, The Flying Starstick

By Audrey Henvey, The Shorthorn staff

Inside the walls of Woolf Hall, a fiberglass tube with a domed nose lies on a wooden lab table. This tube is the beginnings of a rocket made by UTA’s Aero Mavericks and will reach exactly 10,000 feet above the ground in June. The Rocketry Division of Aero Mavericks is preparing to compete in the Intercollegiate Rocket Engineering Competition with teams from around the world. The team has been working to turn their rocket designs into reality since September. The transformation is proving to be a hands-on experience.

It all started with wrapping sleeves of fiberglass into a large tube.

“Even if you’re wearing gloves, your hands get all gluey,” said Jesse Sullivan, aerospace engineering freshman and Aero Mavericks treasurer. “Then you do that three or four more times to get four layers of fiberglass.”

Rockets are given a payload, or items to be carried by the rocket on its mission. Payloads might include missiles, satellites or human-manned spacecrafts, according to the NASA website.

A glider with a wingspan of about 24 inches waits to take on its role as the payload among the motor, parachutes and wires inside of the rocket. The glider will pop out and fly down from 10,000 feet, collecting data. Controlled from the ground by a computer, the glider is expected to descend in a spiral pattern, said Michael Perrino, aerospace engineering junior and Aero Mavericks president.

Engineering students use Aero Mavericks to get real-life experience, while learning the rules of thumb for aerospace engineering. The theories learned in class help them understand why those rules exist, Perrino said.

A lot of what the club does is not necessarily learned in class, said Austin Yates, mechanical engineering sophomore and chief engineer of Aero Mavericks’ Rocketry Division. Knowing how to build components of the rocket comes from current and previous members’ experience, he said. Binders filled with homework notes from former members line a shelf in the room like reference material in a library.

Aero Mavericks also reach out to younger teams by giving them spaces to test their creations, supplies and advice, Northstar School teacher Byron Appelt said.

Jennifer Bradford, aerospace engineering sophomore and Aero Mavericks communications officer, said it feels like passing the torch.

At the Northstar School on March 2, high school juniors and seniors pull out clear polycarbonate tubing. Cameras, wooden circles and rods scatter on tables as students pick up where they left off on the quest to build a transparent rocket that will break the speed of sound.

The team broke the speed of sound last year, but the goal to make the rocket’s tubing clear is adding a new challenge, said Northstar School senior Nicole Dyer.

“Last year, we won the big award, so we wanted to do something other than just replicating that and take it one step further,” Dyer said. “Doing it with an abnormal body tube put a lot of difficulty into the project, rather than just ordering the premade parts. We had to figure a lot out for ourselves.”

With the help of Aero Mavericks and tools at the FabLab, the Northstar School team, The Sound of Speed, works every week on the rocket they will launch in May. They started designing the rocket in November and pitched the design to aeronautical engineers at NASA in December.

These students are part of a rocketry class connected to SystemsGo, a high school curriculum using projects to teach the science, technology, engineering and math fields. The nonprofit organization is hosting rocket launches in May for students to test their creations.

The rocket’s clear tubing allows the students to put two cameras inside to capture the experience, one in the bottom and one in the center of the tube.

When the rocket goes transonic, reaching the speed of sound, the rocket fins will flutter. The camera at the bottom of the rocket will capture this fin flutter, Dyer said.

Alumnus Appelt teaches the rocketry class at Northstar School. A 1997 graduate with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering, Appelt took his students to the FabLab so they could use the more advanced tools to work on their rocket. This was where Aero Mavericks introduced themselves to The Sound of Speed about a month ago, he said.

“We took a field trip to take a tour of it, and that was two years ago,” Appelt said. “Now, they have a laser cutter, and that’s very nice to be able to cut rings and stuff for the rocket. It beats an X-ACTO knife by a long shot.”

As The Sound of Speed continues to build their rocket, the students enjoy the hands-on experience of using the laser cutters at UTA and coming home with the messier parts of their work all over them.

“Attaching our fins with the fiberglass resin was pretty fun, because it’s dangerous,” Dyer said. “We mixed a couple of chemicals together to make the fiberglass resin itself. We’d always end up covered in the little tiny fibers and smelling like chemicals.”

@audrey_henvey

news-editor.shorthorn@uta.edu