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Illinois State University Hosts Vertical Rocket Landing Competition

Written by on November 9, 2023

Photo provided by Will Lewis

NORMAL, Ill – Illinois State University hosted a vertical rocket landing competition for the first time on October 28. 

The vertical rocket landing competition is held every semester. The first place trophy went to the team that landed their rocket closest to the landing target. While this was the main competition, teams had other opportunities to earn awards. There is a design award, a survivor’s award and every team is awarded with a participation plaque.

Professor at ISU and faculty advisor for the event Will Lewis said, “We were really excited about having the opportunity to have other schools come and visit our campus and as far as how our team did, we won the award for best rocket design.”

This award went to the rocket that looked the best, according to the judges. First place for the team that landed closest to the target went to one of the Bradley University teams, which had two teams this semester. 

“The way I view it is, the most important thing is not who comes in first at these competitions, but rather that the students have an opportunity to learn and get some hands-on experience with space technology,” said Lewis. 

The University of Illinois sent teams rocket kits six to eight weeks prior to the competition. The rocket team met about four to five hours a week in preparation for the competition. 

Students participating get the opportunity to learn about space technology, specifically about how vertically landed rockets function. They have the opportunity to learn about and explore aerodynamic concepts. They learn about the history and why companies are choosing to pursue space exploration this way. 

“As a result of our participation in the competition, we have started an RSO around space technology. It’s called the Redbird Rockets,” Lewis said. 

Students from any major are invited. Through participation in the competition, the rocket team provides students with a chance to learn about this emerging field in a way that they would not be exposed to in the university’s School of IT curriculum.