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LBSU rocketry team to compete in NASA competition

For the past eight months, Long Beach Rocketry students have dedicated most of their nights designing and building their project in the Collaborative Autonomous Systems Laboratory on campus. To ensure their hard work pays off on competition day, the team drives two hours to test their launches at the Friends of Amateur Rocketry site in Mojave California.

“It’s one of the few rocketry projects on campus that … takes the concept from scratch and turns it into something real,” said Mathew Dinh, LBR’s business manager.

The LBR team will launch its new rocket against 45 other universities from around the nation at this year’s NASA USLI in April.

The  team received a sponsorship from a local aerospace company to help pay for its upcoming competition.

NovaWurks provided $2,500 to help LBR cover travel expenses for the NASA 2019 University Student Launch Initiative competition in Huntsville, Alabama.

The sponsorship paved the way for a collaborative relationship between NovaWurks and LBR, where it will provide internships, mentoring, facility tours and laboratory testing to interested Long Beach State students.

“It’s been a pretty successful program in recent years,” said James Greer, chief operating officer at NovaWurks. “[The students] get the experience hands on and we can see how they perform.”

The funding from NovaWurks puts LBR’s current travel aide at $5,000. But the all-student team of engineers is still less than halfway to its target goal.

“The biggest problem right now that this project faces is funding the money to get [to Huntsville],” Dinh said.

The provisions of California Bill No. 1887 prohibit state-funded travel to states without established LGBT laws. Alabama is one of those states so the group has to fund everything privately, according to Dinh

The expenditures made it impossible for its team members to attend the competition. LBR has less than one month to raise its remaining $7,745.60, but as a team leader, Dinh said he’s hopeful.

“I take my [business manager position] seriously,” the fourth-year aerospace engineering major said. “I’m very determined [to] make it happen.”

The objective for each team in the competition is to launch a rocket as close as possible to a predetermined height and then maneuver the falling rocket to land within a half-mile radius. “It’s a project that can pretty much be applied to everybody,” Dinh said. “There’s so many things to do.”

NASA judges will grade each team on the rocket’s performance and on its paperwork, which consists of detailed reports regarding the design and mechanics of the launch vehicle.

But to Dinh, the event is more than just a grade or ranking.

“When I went my first year, it was such a wonderful experience for me,” Dinh said. “I had a lot of fun just getting to meet new people, seeing [other schools’] projects, having astronauts come over to give speeches, and to see the actual competition day go on.”

Last year, the team’s X49 rocket placed fourth out of 45 universities, reaching 94 percent of its targeted height and being one of only two schools with a working payload.

“[It is] one of the best accolades we’ve had,” Dinh said of the achievement. “That’s why I’m pushing hard this semester to get LBR’s name out there.”

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