U of L River City Rocketry Team wins NASA challenge

By Kate Springer
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) - U of L's River City Rocketry team won NASA's 2017 Student Launch, but a mishap a week before the competition almost took the team off course.
The team is made up of engineering and physics students who spend their year designing rockets.
"They said we want you to design a rocket so that a piece of it can come
out, and autonomously detect some targets on the ground and land upright," said Ben Stringer, co-captain of the team.
That was this year's challenge for NASA's student launch. Over the course of eight months, two dozen students brainstormed, designed, built and tested the rocket while juggling school work and the team.
"I actually had an app on my phone that was tracking how long I was at the engineering garage and I think it averaged out to 67 hours a week," said team member Evan Schurr.
The team created Typhon Heavy, named after a Greek god.
"Typhon, as the legend has it, was a dragon that never slept and had a hundred heads and we were like we never sleep and there's a lot of us, so that sounds perfect--we'll go with that," said Stringer.
The rocket lives up to its name. It's 12 feet tall, weighs 50 pounds and does about 700 pounds of thrust. It goes from zero to 550 miles an hour in just 2.3 seconds.
And in a matter of moments, all their hard work was gone. One week before the competition qualifier flight, the rocket's motor failed, which forced the team to scramble. "That was one of the worst days ever for a lot of us," said Schurr.
"There were some tears that day," said Stringer.
"I think the vehicle team pulled 80 hour weeks and within a week we were flying again," said Schurr.
They rebuilt just in time for the challenge. "It was really nice to have a setback like that, and also be able to come back from it and still get a first place win," said Schurr.
After five years of placing in the top five, the River City Rocketry team finally knocked off the reigning champs.
"Vanderbilt University had a winning streak of four years that we broke," said Stringer. "To finally make it here was incredible."
It's that kind of cooperation and hard work that sets this team apart.
"When you think about the University of Louisville, you don't necessarily think great Ivy League school, but we came out on top of Cornell and Vanderbilt, which feels really great and I think it's strictly because of the effort we put in," said Schurr.
Now that they've taken first place, some are focused on new competitions, while others are looking toward graduation and jobs.
Past members have ended up at NASA and SpaceX.
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