Akron Rocket Design Team growing opportunities
The Akronauts Rocket Design Team is impressive. Designed to give University of Akron (UA) students the opportunity to work on cutting-edge aerospace projects, the team has grown from 30 members just a few years ago, to more than 260 members today and is led by Riley Myers, a mechanical engineering major from Diamond, Ohio.
Although dominated by engineering students, members also come from many other majors, which has allowed the group to expand its ability to excel and take on more projects. There are currently more than 50 leadership positions available.
“We can find a place for anyone,” Myers says. “We have nursing students that lead our environmental health and safety team, education majors who lead our work with local schools, and even finance majors who have helped set up our ordering processes and track costs.”
The team focuses on three goals; the first to design and build a rocket to compete in the annual Spaceport America Cup competition in New Mexico. Students are responsible for every component that is a part of the launch vehicle, including the airframe, motorand propellant, and the avionics, payload and parachutes. The team has an outreach program with the LeBron James Family Foundation I Promise School and used this project to get kids excited about engineering and aviation. The rocket they took to New Mexico in 2022 was painted with the handprints of participating I Promise students. The team won the Technical Excellence Award for their efforts.
The second is to build a rocket that can reach the Kármán line, which is 62 miles above sea level and is the boundary between Earth and space, by 2024. The team is developing a series of rockets, named the Emergence Series, working to improve each rocket to overcome a new set of hurdles and reach a higher target altitude than the previous one. Emergence I was flown in Springfield, Ohio, in 2021 and reached an apogee of 14,244 ft. Emergence II was flown in March 2022 at Friends of Amateur Rocketry in Mojave, Calif., reaching an apogee of 21,964 ft. and Emergence III was launched in Dec. 2022 in Mojave and reached 38,005 ft.
The final goal of the team is to be the first team in Ohio to fly a rocket propelled by a liquid engine. In September 2022, members hit a major milestone by becoming the first collegiate rocket team in Ohio to design, build and hot-fire a liquid engine. They are now working to integrate their liquid engine design into a flight vehicle. Liquid rocket engines are more widely used in the space industry, compared to solid motors, because of their reusability and ability to be throttled or turned off, but are more difficult to design and build and are hard to achieve at the collegiate level due to their difficulty and resources required. Like all technical work, rockets are built upon years of team experience.
“This [liquid engine] test was the result of over two years of hard work from dozens of people, including several who graduated before seeing their efforts materialize,” said team Vice President Dillon Petty, a senior from Canal Fulton, Ohio. “It is rare to be successful in the first attempt and we did it!”
Along with gaining valuable aerospace experience, the group also volunteers. The team is currently building an aerospace museum exhibit in the Akron Children’s Museum.
Story by Cristine Boyd