Blasting Off

Blasting off

Like a lot of engineers, University of Louisville student Will Johnson grew up dreaming of working on rockets. 

“All of us grew up looking at NASA for inspiration and a potential day we want to work someday,” he said. 

Johnson got to do just that in the NASA Student Launch competition, where he and other students on the River City Rocketry team took first place this year.

“It feels great to bring it back to UofL,” said student, Evan Schurr. “Definitely kind of our crowning achievement.”

The team put in months of work, culminating in a launch at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center near Huntsville, Alabama. They won a $5,000 cash prize by beating more than 50 other student teams from across the U.S.

Competing teams use the same process as NASA to design and test their rockets.

"A project like this, it teaches you how to actually go through the design process," Johnson said. "How to get your hands on something real and how to actually apply the things you learn in class."

That experience let the UofL team apply the skills they learned in class and pick up a few more. They used problem solving, project management and teamwork — and companies look for that kind of skill and experience when hiring.

"This is definitely one of the most important things a lot of us have done for our future career," Schurr said. "I think if you ask any of the guys… they’ll say ‘this is the single most important decision I’ve made for my career.’"

NASA launched the rocket competition to further development of technologies needed for future space exploration, with the overaching goal of sending humans to Mars by the 2030s. 

UofL teams have finished in the top three for four years in a row, and have earned 10 awards, including Best Vehicle Design, Safety Award, Project Award and more since 2011. 

 

This is definitely one of the most important things a lot of us have done for our future career. I think if you ask any of the guys… they’ll say ‘this is the single most important decision I’ve made for my career.’
— Evan Schurr, UofL student
It’s huge. I mean, companies are looking exactly for experience like this during your college career. So, it does huge wonders.
— Will Johnson, UofL student