PVCC students selected to participate in national NASA engineering challenge

(Charlottesville, Va.) – Students at Piedmont Virginia Community College have been accepted to participate in NASA’s highly competitive student launch program.

NASA’s student launch program is an eight-month engineering project that challenges students at U.S. colleges and universities to design, build and fly high-power rockets and experimental payloads to meet a complex set of challenges specified by NASA.

PVCC is one of only three community colleges in the nation to be selected for the college and university division of the 2016-2017 student launch program. The other schools in the division consist of four-year colleges and universities such as Cornell University, California State Polytechnic University (CalTech), Georgia Institute of Technology, and others.

“I am so proud of these students,” said Yanina Goddard, PVCC associate professor of physics and faculty advisor for the newly formed Piedmont Student Launch Team Club. “In order to even take part in the project, you have to submit a proposal, so you are essentially competing just to be considered. The fact that their proposal was accepted, and that PVCC was the only college from Virginia to make the final list, demonstrates the quality of our students and the work that they do.”

Participating PVCC students include Sander Abraham, Nicolas Gutkowski, Alex Oxford and Andrew Oxford, all of Crozet; Rodney Davis, Collins Huff, Daniel Hull, Mykaela Morris and Cayla Phillips, all of Charlottesville; and Nathan Miller, of Keswick.

David Oxford, chief information officer at Tiger Fuel Company, is serving as a mentor for the team in high-power rocketry. Tiger Fuel is one of the team’s corporate sponsors.

The PVCC team is currently in the early stage of the project and has just begun construction of its six-foot “sub-scale” rocket to test the students’ designs. When complete, the team’s eight-foot, full-scale rocket will fly to one mile in altitude while team members on the ground control the roll of the vehicle using on-board imaging systems. These same systems are used to locate and identify objects on the ground.  

The Piedmont Student Launch Team Club is actively seeking donations, which will help fund structural and electronic components, rocket motors, and other materials needed to build the rocket and experimental payload. Donations will also be used to fund travel expenses for the team to take part in the NASA Launch Week competition at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., in April, where teams from across the U.S. will fly their rockets and conduct their experiments.

To learn more about the NASA student launch initiative, or to donate, visit .