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USF science club successfully launches rocket into the sky

TAMPA, Fla. -- The University of South Florida is home to several different kinds of students: future doctors, athletes, leaders, scholars and even rocket scientists. USF’s Society of Aeronautics and Rocketry (SOAR) launched its first rocket, BULL-istic I, on Dec. 21, 2013 at The Varn Ranch in Plant City, Fla. The excited students screamed and celebrated as the rocket reached 5,936 feet, disappearing above the clouds.

The rocket was 12 feet 1 inch, weighed 40 pounds and had a solid fuel propellant.

“We were all very confident, walking onto the field that day, that it was going to go off flawlessly,” said club member Taylor Morris, a senior majoring in electrical engineering. “And it was amazing that it did.”

SOAR began planning the rocket in September. Because the club is not funded, the students had to save up money toward the rocket, which cost about $1,200. Despite the long hours of hard work and planning, the students agree that the rocket’s success was not the most significant part of the whole experience.

“Our goal is to give students the opportunity to build rockets, to come up with their own ideas and to develop them into research projects,” said Matthew Chrzanowski, president of SOAR and a doctoral student in the Department of Chemistry. “I feel like that in itself is much more valuable than simply launching a rocket. It’s about the experience you get.”

The club started two years ago, when Chrzanowski went to Manoug Manougian, a professor for USF’s Department of Mathematics and Statistics and director of the STEM Education Center. Manougian now serves as the club’s faculty adviser.

“My first question to him was why? Why do you want to launch rockets? And Matt just looked at me, wondering why I would ask him that question,” said Manougian, leaning in his chair and recalling the memory. “My response was, ‘My students did this 50 years ago. Can you contribute something new?’”

In 1960, Manougian founded a science club at the Haigazian College in Beirut, Lebanon, where students like Chrzanowski had similar goals to launch rockets. Manougian had no choice but to shut down the club when political powers tried to control their activity.

“It didn’t take more than a few seconds for Matt to say, ‘Yeah, we can do something new with this,’” Manougian said. “So I agreed to serve as their adviser.”

With BULL-istic I being a great success, the dedicated science club is ready to move on to things outside of just rockets.

“For our next project, we are picking up where Dr. Manougian left off 50 years ago,” Chrzanowski said. “He left off launching multi-stage rockets and his next goal was to put something into space. So that’s our next goal.”

SOAR has several pending projects on the table such as developing an artificial soil that would support plant growth in space, and building a filter system that would remove low concentrations of carbon dioxide from space cabins. A rocket would serve as the delivery system. But until they get proper funding, the projects will remain on hold. For now, their spirits in SOAR and each other remain high.

“This club really shows how much people who have never done this before, when they really set their mind to something, can start from nothing and accomplish something truly great,” Morris said.


Filed under:Arts and Sciences Mathematics and Statistics Chemistry Student Success  
Author: Melissa Moreno