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UWindsor rocketry team soars in international competition

The University of Windsor Rocketry Team finished third overall in its first-ever competition: (from left) professor Jeff Defoe, Liza DiCecco, Shannon Bosilac, Anthony Gudisey, Sam Randall, Michael Gyan, William Oudomsouk, Alexandra Rose, Patrick Pomerleau-Perron, Jonathan Schreiber.

In its first-ever rocket competition appearance, the University of Windsor Rocketry Team finished third overall out of 82 teams.

Nine senior members of UWindsor’s inaugural rocketry team traveled to New Mexico to compete in the Intercollegiate Rocket Engineering Competition’s (IREC) 2017 Spaceport America Cup held June 20 to 24. While first and second place were announced at the competition, the 80 other participating teams had to wait more than a month for competition results.

“We were pretty ecstatic,” says Liza DiCecco, a fourth-year materials option mechanical engineering student. “The results came right before our capstone report was due, when we were stressed out trying to finish. So this news made us pretty happy.”

Event organizers were especially impressed with UWindsor’s custom-made trajectory model the students created with MATLAB software. The team was one of 24 schools invited to present in a podium session during competition.

“Our trajectory model was well-received. They told us we had a good understanding of the fundamental physics of rocketry and our model would be a great resource for teams to come,” DiCecco says. “We’re going to be collecting flight data from other universities to calibrate our model and make it more accurate. Once it’s complete, we’ll share it with other teams.”

UWindsor competed against 44 teams in a category that required students to design, build, and launch a rocket carrying a payload of four kilograms to a target altitude of 10,000 feet. Teams were awarded points based on written reports, a podium session and how close their rockets’ maximum altitude was to the target. During competition, the UWindsor rocket reached 10,533 feet, which was within 3.8 per cent of the team’s predicted altitude. UWindsor was one of the three leading schools to score in the 800-point range. The fourth-place team finished with 764 points out of 1,000.

Professor Jeff Defoe, the team’s faculty advisor, says the students’ achievement is extremely impressive, though not entirely surprising.

“The excellence in planning and execution displayed by the entire team throughout the project left little doubt in my mind that they would be extremely successful,” he says. “Placing third out of 82 teams from around the world for a first-time entry is something these students, the department, the faculty and the university should be extremely proud of.”

Junior members of the rocketry club plan to compete again next year with the help of some graduating members who have said they will advise and assist in their spare time. DiCecco said the team can score more points for custom making components, like the rocket’s body tubing, nose cone and parachute.

“It was an unbelievable experience,” says Shannon Bosilac, a mechanical engineering student in the aerospace option. “Seeing rockets is an experience in itself, but being able to actually go there and launch our own rocket was a dream. I never imagined I would be able to go and launch my own rocket.”

Bosilac says the team wouldn’t have been successful without Dr. Defoe’s encouragement and the support of the engineering faculty, Windsor Engineering Society, University of Windsor Students' Alliance, University of Windsor Student Life Enhancement Fund, University of Windsor Engineering Student Fund, the UWindsor Alumni Association, and its off-campus sponsors.

Visit the UWindsor Rocketry Facebook page to learn more about the team.