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UIC students launch to success in rocket competition

Students holding rocket entries

UIC students launched their rocket designs at the 10th Intercollegiate Rocket Engineering Competition this summer — and brought home two awards.

“It’s the world’s largest collegiate rocket competition,” said Matt Kubik, president of the UIC chapter of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics and a senior in chemical engineering.

This is the first year the UIC chapter competed in the remote-controlled rocket contest, hosted June 24-28 by the Experimental Sounding Rocket Association in Green River, Utah. Participants included teams from 36 colleges in seven countries.

Some teams spend up to a year preparing for the competition, but a scramble for funding meant the UIC team had about two months to finish its two entries: Vimana (named for a mythological flying chariot in ancient Hindu epics) and Ultra Suka Sounding Rocket (U.S.S.R.).

“There were a few days that we pulled eight-hour shifts,” said Jacqueline Swift, chapter treasurer and senior in mechanical engineering.

The rockets, required to carry a 10-pound payload, were made from aluminum, fiberglass and plywood, with electronic parts for launch. Rockets in the basic competition must launch 10,000 feet above ground level; in the advanced competition, entries must launch and recover 23,000 feet above ground level.

“It was two months of work down to someone pressing a button, so it was really nerve wracking,” Swift said.

UIC’s Vimana rocket won the Closest to the Pin Award after landing 150 feet from the pad in the basic competition. “Most rockets land about three-quarters of a mile away,” Kubik said.

The U.S.S.R launched 19,000 feet in the air and went supersonic for five seconds.

UIC also won the Team Sportsmanship Award for willingness to help others at the competition. “We were thrilled when we won it,” said Swift. “We were excited that the judges noticed we were holding our own as a team but that we were also willing to help others.”

The UIC team, which has about 45 members, also participates in two other competitions during the year — Battle of the Rockets and Design/Build/Fly.

They placed second in the Battle of the Rockets in March and they’re eager to start prepping for 2016. “We’re hoping to place first,” Kubik said.

The team welcomes new student members. For more information, email