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Minuteman Launch Team Chosen by NASA as Rookie of the Year

Minuteman Launch Team

A team of UMass Amherst students received the 2015 Rookie of the Year award at the NASA Student Launch Challenge, held April 11 near NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Thirty-five teams from middle schools to universities demonstrated aerospace and engineering skills at the competition. Read all about it at or Aero-News Network.

The pioneering Minuteman Launch Team was Rookie of the Year in more ways than one. The team of mechanical engineering majors Max Perham (team leader), Nate Fowler (payload retention), Andrew Dodd (safety officer, automated ground support equipment), and Greg Kelley (vehicle and payload recovery systems) was the first UMass Amherst unit ever to compete in the NASA Student Launch Challenge. The team was featured on the main UMass website ( and was covered on the College of Engineering and MIE news pages (

This past year, the team designed, built, tested, and launched a 92-inch-long, four-inch-diameter, 200-ounce rocket to compete in the NASA Student Launch challenge. The national competition engages teams from many colleges, universities, and schools across the nation in an eight-month commitment to design, build, and fly payloads and/or vehicle components on high-powered, scale-model rockets to support the “Space Launch System,” America’s new rocket program being developed for deep space travel.

The team was advised by Howard Greenblatt of the Central Massachusetts Spacemodeling Society and Professors James Rinderle and Frank Sup of the MIE department.

The experience of the UMass team demonstrates how the NASA Student Launch is designed so that every project in the competition is provided with resources, learning experiences, and step-by-step reviews for both the participating students and their advisors.

“We hope to shift the perception of what students can accomplish here at UMass,” said Fowler. “As a team, we have no doubt about the value that a true design competition has. We are applying knowledge from nearly every class we have taken at UMass.” (June 2015)