Florida Poly to launch its first rocket

Eric Chan (left), Patrick Mahoney (center) and Brent Collins are part of a six-member Florida Poly team called the Phoenix Flyers, which will compete in a statewide rocket launch competition sponsored by NASA’s Florida Space Grant Consortium.
Eric Chan (left), Patrick Mahoney (center) and Brent Collins are part of a six-member Florida Poly team called the Phoenix Flyers, which will compete in a statewide rocket launch competition sponsored by NASA’s Florida Space Grant Consortium.

For the first time, a group of Florida Polytechnic University students will launch a rocket as part of a statewide competition sponsored by NASA’s Florida Space Grant Consortium (FSGC). The launch date is scheduled for Saturday, April 14, in Bunnell, Florida.

The team of six students, called the Phoenix Flyers, has been preparing intensively for this hybrid motor high powered rocket competition for several months through research, simulation, design and construction of the rocket.

Brent Collins, a junior electrical engineering major from Auburndale, Florida, has high hopes for the launch and said the competition is a culmination of a lot of hard work put in by the team.

“Ideally, we would love to succeed, but just seeing the rocket take off, all of our work coming together and all of our research being done, and the accurate flight simulations and all of the math involved is more important to us than winning,” he said.

The Phoenix Flyers will compete against 18 teams from seven other educational institutions – University of Central Florida, Eastern Florida State College, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Florida Atlantic University, Florida Institute of Technology, Florida International University and Florida State University.

Teams will compete in one of two categories, either maximum altitude or the closest to 2,000 feet, the latter of which features Florida Poly. Points are awarded based on launch results, the completion of an engineering notebook and receipt of progress reports leading up to the competition.

All of the electronics for the parachute deployment – from circuitry to code to soldering – were developed by students. Additionally, the altitude circuitry includes a pressure sensor.

For Dr. Suleiman Alsweiss, a professor of electrical engineering at Florida Poly and one of the advisors on the project, this event represents much more than just a rocket launch.

“Projects like this are helping Florida Poly fulfill its promise to students that they will be introduced to some great engineering experiences that hopefully can capture their imagination, and teach them problem-solving, management and other real-life skills so they are well-prepared when they join the workforce,” said Alsweiss. “It gets to the bigger picture of being a Florida Poly student.”

The Phoenix Flyers are also preparing for a separate rocket launch competition in June featuring teams from around the world.

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