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University of Hawaiʻi Community College students are designing and building a rocket and payload to be launched from a NASA flight facility as part of the NASA Student Launch Competition. Ten UH students from Honolulu, Kapiʻolani and Windward Community Colleges and three from UH Mānoa comprise the Project Imua Mission 6 team.

“The NASA Student Launch is a competition hosted by NASA annually and it’s a prestigious competition where they have teams build a launch vehicle and build a payload specified to each yearʻs requirements,“ explained Windward CC student and rocket team leader Katherine Bronston. “This year we’re building a 10-foot rocket that will go about a mile, not quite a mile, into the air and then it will land in two independent sections and a rover will come out, intended for soil collection.”

Honolulu CC student Mia Fong leads the payload team that is designing and building the rover. She said, “It’s been really interesting to learn all about this process especially because the NASA competition mimics the [real-life] NASA design review, you kind of get to see what it would be like in industry before actually getting there.”

As part of their preparation for Mission 6 and to test their rocket’s design, the Project Imua students recently launched small-scale rockets at Windward CC.

Project Imua started as a collaboration between four UH Community Colleges in 2014 to provide students with real-life aeronautical engineering experiences with NASA.

“It’s so that students have a hands-on project-based educational experience and by doing this they learn all the rules that NASA expects from any company that they are going to subcontract to,” said Windward CC Instructor Jacob Hudson.

The Project Imua team was informed by NASA in October 2018 that they had been selected to compete in the 2019 NASA Student Launch. Teams are challenged to “call their shot” and predict before launch day how high their rocket will fly.

Hawaiʻi Space Grant Consortium awarded Project Imua a grant of $65,931, which will cover the materials, student stipends and travel expenses.

Project Imua will have a design review by NASA in January 2019, to see if their rocket will be approved to launch at NASA Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama in April 2019.

Bronston said, “It’s very exciting to get to work with NASA and to get to design our own project and to see it launch and to see it actually work.”

You can follow the Project Imua team’s progress in the following ways:

—By Kelli Trifonovitch

students assembling rockets
Project Imua Mission 6 team preparing to launch small-scale rockets at Windward CC.
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