From Vanderbilt: “Student rocketeers earn second place in NASA contest”

Vanderbilt U Bloc

Vanderbilt University

May 12, 2017
Brenda Ellis
(615) 343-6314

Vanderbilt rocketeers with their High Roller rocket at the NASA Student Launch Competition in Alabama. (Photo: VADL)

Vanderbilt soars to success with innovative rocket designs and payloads.

Engineering students from the Vanderbilt Aerospace Design Laboratory earned the second place in the 2017 NASA-Orbital ATK Rocket Challenge. They received a cash prize of $2,500, an award created this year by the National Space Club in Huntsville, Alabama.

High Roller at takeoff from the launch rail at the NASA launch competition in April. (Photo: Jim Wilkerson)

For ten straight years, Vanderbilt has soared to success with innovative rocket designs and payloads and this year has been no exception. Having earned more than 20 awards in the past decade, including a record-setting four back-to-back national championships from 2013 to 2016, VADL added the 2017 Payload Design, Rocket Fair Display and Education Engagement awards to their awards collection.

NASA announced the results of the competition May 12. University of Louisville captured top honors and Cornell University came in third.

The VADL team developed an ingenious set of cold gas supersonic thrusters to control the roll on their rocket – High Roller – during flight, netting them the prestigious Payload Design Award.

The payload design was one of three predetermined payload options offered to university teams. The roll induction and counter roll payload required teams to design a system that is capable of controlling a rocket’s roll after motor burnout. After the system has induced two rotations, it requires a counter rolling moment to halt all rolling motion for the remainder of rocket’s ascent.

“It is extremely noteworthy that VADL’s decade of success has coincided with rapid developments in the private space sector and the admission of extraordinary students to Vanderbilt, who have been able to take on the competitions’ extreme challenges,” said Professor Amrutur Anilkumar, who created the program and directs VADL. “Seven payload design awards and four national championships is proof positive as to what can be achieved at Vanderbilt without a formal department in aerospace engineering.”

Another testament to VADL’s success: All 2017 seniors in the program seeking jobs are heading to aerospace careers at Lockheed Martin, Space-X, Honeywell Aerospace and other companies. Three seniors start graduate studies at Stanford in the fall.

The student launch competition is a NASA-conducted and aerospace industry-evaluated engineering design challenge built around a NASA mission. It is an intense eight-month contest involving payload and rocket designs, project reports, design reviews, outreach activities and website design, followed by a grand finale launch in April.

“The Vanderbilt Aerospace Design Laboratory was set up to provide an opportunity for engineering students, both undergraduate and graduate, to take up the challenge of designing a novel payload and a launch vehicle each year, working through the details starting from fundamental science, through engineering analysis, and eventually leading to technological deliverables,” Anilkumar said.

“It is a very intense immersion program and a challenge in extreme engineering. What drives the team is the fact that they need to build a demanding vehicle around an innovative payload and test fly it in the field, where everything has to work in a six-eight second experiment window,” he said.

Building something from scratch is a liberating experience, said Grady Lynch, a 2017 mechanical engineering graduate who is headed to Lockheed Martin as a design engineer.

“In aerospace engineering form fits function, and there is no room for aesthetics. The modeling and analytical solutions, testing and validation, all meld seamlessly—it is the ultimate engineering,” said Lynch. “One aspect of this program is that the on-pad cost of the rocket should not exceed $5000. This requires that we design, machine and fabricate components all on our own and also undertake rigorous component testing.”

Michael Gilliland, who will be joining Space-X as a design engineer, said detailed analysis and risk mitigation for both the rocket and the payload were at the top of the team’s agenda.

“Generally, subsystems that function in normal gravity conditions are exposed to extreme loads at 15g takeoff and unexpected failures can happen. To anticipate these failures and take preemptive actions, and to set up backup protocols for minimum deliverable data, was the focus of our training,” Gilliland said.

“Ground-based testing and validation is a key component, while the flight is the ultimate challenge. Building robust platforms for checking out rocket roll control through cold gas thrusters has been most rewarding,” said Artie Binstein. He is heading to Stanford University for graduate school where he plans to study space flight dynamics and controls.

“Simulating rocket flight and incorporating the effects of atmospheric wind gusts with an overlay of rotation control has been a very practical validation of complex analytical tools. We have been able to predict rocket performance to a high precision,” said Paul Register, who also is heading to Stanford for graduate studies in aerospace engineering.

“Robin Midgett, VADL laboratory manager and rocketry mentor, has been a great ally — combining his enthusiasm for rocketry with the encyclopedic knowledge of the middle Tennessee landscape to make field engineering a delightful and safe experience for the students,” Anilkumar said.

“We are convinced that all of these VADL alumni will go on to shine in the aerospace industry and continue to make Vanderbilt proud.”

See the full article here .

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Stem Education Coalition

Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt was in his 79th year when he decided to make the gift that founded Vanderbilt University in the spring of 1873.

The $1 million that he gave to endow and build the university was the commodore’s only major philanthropy. Methodist Bishop Holland N. McTyeire of Nashville, husband of Amelia Townsend who was a cousin of the commodore’s young second wife Frank Crawford, went to New York for medical treatment early in 1873 and spent time recovering in the Vanderbilt mansion. He won the commodore’s admiration and support for the project of building a university in the South that would “contribute to strengthening the ties which should exist between all sections of our common country.”

McTyeire chose the site for the campus, supervised the construction of buildings and personally planted many of the trees that today make Vanderbilt a national arboretum. At the outset, the university consisted of one Main Building (now Kirkland Hall), an astronomical observatory and houses for professors. Landon C. Garland was Vanderbilt’s first chancellor, serving from 1875 to 1893. He advised McTyeire in selecting the faculty, arranged the curriculum and set the policies of the university.

For the first 40 years of its existence, Vanderbilt was under the auspices of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. The Vanderbilt Board of Trust severed its ties with the church in June 1914 as a result of a dispute with the bishops over who would appoint university trustees.

kirkland hallFrom the outset, Vanderbilt met two definitions of a university: It offered work in the liberal arts and sciences beyond the baccalaureate degree and it embraced several professional schools in addition to its college. James H. Kirkland, the longest serving chancellor in university history (1893-1937), followed Chancellor Garland. He guided Vanderbilt to rebuild after a fire in 1905 that consumed the main building, which was renamed in Kirkland’s honor, and all its contents. He also navigated the university through the separation from the Methodist Church. Notable advances in graduate studies were made under the third chancellor, Oliver Cromwell Carmichael (1937-46). He also created the Joint University Library, brought about by a coalition of Vanderbilt, Peabody College and Scarritt College.

Remarkable continuity has characterized the government of Vanderbilt. The original charter, issued in 1872, was amended in 1873 to make the legal name of the corporation “The Vanderbilt University.” The charter has not been altered since.

The university is self-governing under a Board of Trust that, since the beginning, has elected its own members and officers. The university’s general government is vested in the Board of Trust. The immediate government of the university is committed to the chancellor, who is elected by the Board of Trust.

The original Vanderbilt campus consisted of 75 acres. By 1960, the campus had spread to about 260 acres of land. When George Peabody College for Teachers merged with Vanderbilt in 1979, about 53 acres were added.

wyatt centerVanderbilt’s student enrollment tended to double itself each 25 years during the first century of the university’s history: 307 in the fall of 1875; 754 in 1900; 1,377 in 1925; 3,529 in 1950; 7,034 in 1975. In the fall of 1999 the enrollment was 10,127.

In the planning of Vanderbilt, the assumption seemed to be that it would be an all-male institution. Yet the board never enacted rules prohibiting women. At least one woman attended Vanderbilt classes every year from 1875 on. Most came to classes by courtesy of professors or as special or irregular (non-degree) students. From 1892 to 1901 women at Vanderbilt gained full legal equality except in one respect — access to dorms. In 1894 the faculty and board allowed women to compete for academic prizes. By 1897, four or five women entered with each freshman class. By 1913 the student body contained 78 women, or just more than 20 percent of the academic enrollment.

National recognition of the university’s status came in 1949 with election of Vanderbilt to membership in the select Association of American Universities. In the 1950s Vanderbilt began to outgrow its provincial roots and to measure its achievements by national standards under the leadership of Chancellor Harvie Branscomb. By its 90th anniversary in 1963, Vanderbilt for the first time ranked in the top 20 private universities in the United States.

Vanderbilt continued to excel in research, and the number of university buildings more than doubled under the leadership of Chancellors Alexander Heard (1963-1982) and Joe B. Wyatt (1982-2000), only the fifth and sixth chancellors in Vanderbilt’s long and distinguished history. Heard added three schools (Blair, the Owen Graduate School of Management and Peabody College) to the seven already existing and constructed three dozen buildings. During Wyatt’s tenure, Vanderbilt acquired or built one-third of the campus buildings and made great strides in diversity, volunteerism and technology.

The university grew and changed significantly under its seventh chancellor, Gordon Gee, who served from 2000 to 2007. Vanderbilt led the country in the rate of growth for academic research funding, which increased to more than $450 million and became one of the most selective undergraduate institutions in the country.

On March 1, 2008, Nicholas S. Zeppos was named Vanderbilt’s eighth chancellor after serving as interim chancellor beginning Aug. 1, 2007. Prior to that, he spent 2002-2008 as Vanderbilt’s provost, overseeing undergraduate, graduate and professional education programs as well as development, alumni relations and research efforts in liberal arts and sciences, engineering, music, education, business, law and divinity. He first came to Vanderbilt in 1987 as an assistant professor in the law school. In his first five years, Zeppos led the university through the most challenging economic times since the Great Depression, while continuing to attract the best students and faculty from across the country and around the world. Vanderbilt got through the economic crisis notably less scathed than many of its peers and began and remained committed to its much-praised enhanced financial aid policy for all undergraduates during the same timespan. The Martha Rivers Ingram Commons for first-year students opened in 2008 and College Halls, the next phase in the residential education system at Vanderbilt, is on track to open in the fall of 2014. During Zeppos’ first five years, Vanderbilt has drawn robust support from federal funding agencies, and the Medical Center entered into agreements with regional hospitals and health care systems in middle and east Tennessee that will bring Vanderbilt care to patients across the state.

studentsToday, Vanderbilt University is a private research university of about 6,500 undergraduates and 5,300 graduate and professional students. The university comprises 10 schools, a public policy center and The Freedom Forum First Amendment Center. Vanderbilt offers undergraduate programs in the liberal arts and sciences, engineering, music, education and human development as well as a full range of graduate and professional degrees. The university is consistently ranked as one of the nation’s top 20 universities by publications such as U.S. News & World Report, with several programs and disciplines ranking in the top 10.

Cutting-edge research and liberal arts, combined with strong ties to a distinguished medical center, creates an invigorating atmosphere where students tailor their education to meet their goals and researchers collaborate to solve complex questions affecting our health, culture and society.

Vanderbilt, an independent, privately supported university, and the separate, non-profit Vanderbilt University Medical Center share a respected name and enjoy close collaboration through education and research. Together, the number of people employed by these two organizations exceeds that of the largest private employer in the Middle Tennessee region.
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