Kapiʻolani CC student Lauren Grzegorczyk preps the rocket with Windward CC mentor Jacob Hudson

Ten University of Hawaiʻi Community College students from Honolulu, Kapiʻolani and Windward Community Colleges and UH Mānoa, comprising the Project Imua Mission 6 team, are in Alabama, preparing to launch the rocket and payload they designed and built for the NASA Student Launch Project competition.

“I believe the best part of Project Imua is just the hands-on experience. Rocketry is something that I’ve always found super interesting,” said Kapiʻolani CC student Lauren Grzegorczyk. “Our team for this specific project had to design, engineer–this is all real-world experience we’re gaining. It’s just a type of experience that you can’t really replicate in classes.”

NASA Student Launch competition teams are challenged to “call their shot” and predict before launch day how high their rocket will fly. Project Imua’s 10-foot-tall rocket is named “Fissure 8” after the prominent volcanic vent in the 2018 eruption on Hawaiʻi Island. Their payload is a four-wheeled rover named “Hoʻomau” (the Hawaiian values of perseverance and persistence), designed to travel 10 feet before collecting a soil sample.

UH Manoa mechanical engineering student Matthew Nakamura works on the Project Imua rocket

The challenge is being held near NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, culminating with student rocket launches on April 6, 2019, and featuring the work of 52 teams from 21 states.

At the welcome ceremony for the competition, students heard from NASA Deputy Manager Trey Cate about the Space Launch System (SLS), the most powerful rocket NASA has ever built. “SLS will enable astronauts to begin their journey to explore destinations far into the solar system,” according to NASA

Eric Takahashi, a UH Mānoa mechanical engineering student, said, “I would describe rocket science to be very challenging, difficult at times, sometimes it’s also very stressful, but, at the end of the day, it’s very rewarding.”

Project Imua’s primary mission is to develop small payloads for space flight while providing undergraduates with project-based learning opportunities in STEM fields. Hawaiʻi Space Grant Consortium awarded Project Imua a grant of $65,931, which covered materials, student stipends and travel expenses.

Note: NASA will be livestreaming the launches, currently slated for Saturday, April 6, on the NASA Student Launch Facebook page. The broadcast will start at 8:40 a.m. Central Daylight Time (CDT). Livestream of the launches includes interviews with the teams and NASA VIPs and guests. The launches typically conclude around 2 p.m. CDT, when the broadcast will wrap.

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

Read more about previous Project Imua launches.

—By Kelli Trifonovitch