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Hawaii rocketry team wins NASA rookie award in national competition

  • COURTESY UNIVERSITY OF HAWAII

    The University of Hawaii’s Project Imua rocketry team launched its rocket on April 6 in Alabama.

  • COURTESY UNIVERSITY OF HAWAII

    The Project Imua team from Honolulu, Kapiolani and Windward Community Colleges and the University of Hawaii at Manoa campus.

The University of Hawaii’s Project Imua rocketry team was recognized as the top new team in NASA’s 2019 Student Launch competition.

Forty-five college and university teams designed, built, flew and safely landed rockets during the eight-month competition in Alabama. The rockets had to reach an altitude selected by each team between 4,000 and 5,500 feet. After landing, the rockets had to autonomously deploy a payload.

The 14-member Project Imua team, consisting of students from Honolulu, Kapiolani and Windward Community Colleges and the UH-Manoa campus, competed on April 6 and eventually won the Rookie Award and placed ninth overall of 45 teams that competed.

“I’m so excited that our flight went so well, it really went just as it was supposed to,” Katherine Bronston, team leader from WCC, said.

Project Imua built a 10-foot rocket named “Fissure 8,” after the most active fissure during the 2018 Kilauea Volcano eruption. The rocket flew 4,338 feet, which was just under the team’s prediction of 4,700 feet. Its payload was a four-wheeled rover, which the team named “Ho‘omau,” referring to persistence in Hawaiian.

“I might become an astronaut,” WCC student Leomana Turalde said. “I’ve always kind of wanted to become an astronaut since I was a kid and watching this rocket fly, I’m kind of finding confidence in myself that it’s possible.”

NASA designed the Student Launch competition to provide low-cost development and research to support the Space Launch System, a powerful and advanced rocket NASA intends to use for deep space exploration.

The competition takes place annually and includes colleges and universities from around the country. This year, Vanderbilt University won first place and a $5,000 prize, while the University of North Carolina at Charlotte won $2,500 for coming in second place.

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