The University of Massachusetts Amherst
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Help Launch the Minuteman Launch Team

UMass Minuteman Launch Team

The pioneering Minuteman Launch Team is the first group of UMass students to enter the NASA Student Launch competition, and the team members are extremely excited at the prospect of launching a high-powered rocket, scheduled for takeoff in April of 2015 at the Marshall Spaceflight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. You can help launch our College of Engineering team on its way to Alabama by donating used two-liter soda bottles for a college outreach event starting March 23. Please drop off bottles in Marston 126 anytime between now and March 23. Note that your bottles will actually be transformed into “bottle rockets” by middle-school children as part of an outreach educational program taught by our engineering “rocketeers.” We need at least 50 bottles!

For the first time ever, UMass Engineering will be competing in the Student Launch Challenge, part of a NASA program geared toward furthering deep-space exploration. The Minuteman Launch Team includes 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). The team and its work are currently featured on the main UMass website ( and were covered last December on the College of Engineering and MIE news pages (

During the second weekend of April, the team will travel to Alabama, where it will complete a launch readiness review and safety briefing, while also displaying its design at the NASA Rocket Fair. Finally, the team will demonstrate the functionality of its robotic ground-support equipment and launch the rocket.

The national NASA competition engages teams from many colleges and universities 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.

NASA is providing material and travel support for the UMass team to compete next month in Huntsville. In return for this funding, the team has to engage more than 200 middle-school-age students. The Diversity Programs Office is helping facilitate this portion of the launch project.

On March 11, the UMass team talked with the entire Amherst Regional Middle School about engineering, its plans for the future, and the launch competition. Team members were joined by honorary team member Aimee Goncalves. The team returned to the middle school over lunch to talk in more detail about rockets, robotics, and engineering with a smaller group of students at the SoundBites Cafe, hosted by science teacher Jennifer Welborn. 

Over the next week, all these middle school students will have the opportunity to sign up to design, build, and launch their own rockets with the assistance of the UMass Minuteman Launch Team. The after school “Mini-Minutemen and Minute-women Launch Teams” will design and build their bottle rockets on Monday, March 23. The following Monday, March 30, they will be launching the rockets from the soccer field adjacent to the middle school. 

Please help by donating your used two-liter soda bottles. They can be dropped off in Marston 126. Bottles are most needed between now and March 23, although donations up through March 27 will be welcome. (March 2015)