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VIDEO: UC Triumphs at the Battle of the Rockets

Two teams of aerospace engineering students from the University of Cincinnati won at the 2012 Battle of the Rockets in Culpeper, Va.

Date: 4/11/2012 12:00:00 AM
By: Lauren Koch
Photos By: UC Teams, the Rocket Underground and the Chubacateers

UC ingot  

As part of their senior design project, 20 University of Cincinnati aerospace engineering seniors competed in the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) and Praxis Inc. Battle of the Rockets Competition held on March 31. The 20 seniors were divided into two teams, one of which became the first-place champions!
Two of the Chubaccateers team members’ assess the electronic issues during testing.

The contest is an aerospace competition open to universities and high schools, run by a local rocketry society in Culpeper, Va.
Two teams composed of 10 students each, the “Rocket Underground” and the “Chubaccateers,” participated in the Planetary Rover Event. In this event, student teams are required to design and create a mars rover, an automated motor vehicle, to be housed in and launched from a rocket. Very few teams participate in this category, likely because of the category’s high complexity.
During the competition, teams launch their rockets, with rovers inside, to a minimum 1,000 feet in altitude. Once launched, each rocket must come apart and deploy its rover. The rover must then be safely transported to the ground via parachute. Once on the ground, teams must design the rover to operate on its own, autonomously, and move a designated distance, make required turns, all while dropping markers.
rover in a can
A look inside the Rocket Underground's rocket

Each team independently chose its own path in designing an ideal rocket and rover, creating two very impressive systems. The process is complex. Student teams essentially build an  aero-system from scratch, programming all necessary movements and applying necessary sensors to meet all competition requirements.
In the process of preparing for the competition, students were exposed to both project management and systems engineering. Assistant Professor Grant Schaffner was the students' advisor throughout the class and competition. “The competition allowed for a practical application of the skills rather than in a project setting,” describes Schaffner.
In the heat of the competition, each team discovered its rovers weren’t operating as planned. Quick on their feet, the students worked feverishly to address the programming difficulties.
In weeds
The Chubaccateers get caught in the high grass of a neighboring field

The Chubaccateer’s rover emitted a bit of smoke, overpowering the current and frying the electronics. The team hastily rushed to a nearby store to buy supplies to completely revamp, reprogram and rewire their electronics in the rover.
Luckily, each team was able to address its problems and make a successful launch. The Chubaccateers truly worked down to the last minute, making their final launch a nail biter. The students successfully launched its rocket and deployed its rover, only to have the rover caught in the evening winds and swept into a nearby field full of overgrown grass.
Unfortunately, the team did not anticipate getting stuck in the weeds, and the rover was hopelessly entangled in the high grass. Had the winds blown differently that day, the Bearcat teams were in place to take home both first and second place
Two of the Chubaccateers team members’ assess the electronic issues during testing.

The Rocket Underground also faced challenges during test flights. “Our biggest challenge in the competition was overcoming a failure we had during our test flight. Our first test launch resulted in a failure after our payload deployed one second after launch due to a programming error. We had to rebuild our engine mount section in one week and modify our body so that we could launch again the next weekend. Our next test launch was 100 percent successful with a dummy weight taking the place of the rover,” describes Alex Apyan, Rocket Underground’s rocket team leader.
With its successful launch and landing, The Rocket Underground won first place and became the Planetary Rover Event Champions!
Apyan credits his team’s win to their camaraderie, leadership and preparedness. He reflects, “The Battle of the Rockets by itself was a fun experience, but it was really just the visible culmination of all of the work we had put in over the year. During our design classes, we gained a lot of experience in the entire design, manufacturing and operational phases of an engineering system.”
Schaffner states, “Both teams did extremely well, and I am very proud of them for winning the competition.”
Schaffner plans to bring another set of UC students next year to defend their title, along with a new UC Rocketry Club.  Schaffner is hopeful that CEAS students will continue to triumph at competitions to come.
Both of the Bearcat Teams at the Battle of the Rockets Competition