AIAA students rocket to success

Lamar University's American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) student chapter, revived in spring 2023, has made significant strides as a student organization. LU AIAA Group Photo

Driven by a passion for space exploration, the AIAA chapter collaborated on the senior design capstone project to establish Lamar's presence in rocketry. 

Their efforts culminated in the 2024 NASA University Student Launch Initiative, a nine-month competition. Under Faculty Advisor Dr. Chun-Wei Yao's guidance, the team designed, built, and successfully launched a high-powered rocket on April 13 in Huntsville, Alabama,  where they competed with universities nationwide. 

“Our nine-month journey through rigorous competition and navigating strict deadlines for tasks set by NASA, is a testament to our students' resilience and dedication,” Faculty Advisor Dr. Chun-Wei Yao said. “Despite being a small team, the members of the AIAA student chapter and mechanical engineering senior design rocket launch team showcased remarkable efficiency when competing with larger teams from prestigious universities. Team members learned from each other, supported one another, and, most importantly, never gave up. This team is one of the few to advance to the final phase of the NASA student launch competition in its first year. They completed the mission. I am very proud of the students.”  

Throughout this experience, students were allowed opportunities to expand their skill set outside of the classroom.  AIAA Students

“Throughout my time working on this project, I have gained countless skills in engineering and leadership as well as developed my character,” member Rubin Rao said. “From using SolidWorks, to utilizing 3D printing, to leading a team of individuals, these are a few of the many skills I will take with me throughout my professional career. Despite the many long days and nights, ups and downs, this experience has flown by so fast, but I am truly grateful for every single moment of it.” 

Additionally, the experience provided students with the opportunity to network and meet professionals in the aerospace field.  

“As a student, it has helped me challenge my technical knowledge but also build my soft skills and strengthen my professional development which has opened job opportunities in the aerospace field,” member Ana Morfin said. “With the time and all the efforts that I have contributed to this project, I have learned invaluable skills that have made me a competitive candidate and allowed me to interview and receive offers from various companies in the industry.”  

More than practical skills, students established a sense of community.  
There were many nights where the group would stay up until 2 to 3 a.m. working on the deliverables, but none of that mattered once we got to NASA and got to see our rocket launch among such prestigious universities,” member Jonah Watts said. “The Lamar Rocketry group has become family to me, and we are constantly pushing each other to attain our goals and keep setting even higher goals for ourselves.” Launch Photo AIAA

Although AIAA is in the beginning phases of re-establishing itself at Lamar, they pride themselves on the passion that their members show for their craft. In their first year being active, they have participated in multiple outreach events such as Cardinal View, Discover Engineering, and outreach to local schools. 

“Our plans for the future of AIAA include growth, community building, and continuing to challenge ourselves,” Morfin said. “We want to continue competing in the NASA USLI challenge, as the rules and mission objectives change every year to align with the goals of the current aerospace initiatives.” 

Results from the competition will be announced in June.