Northwestern team seeks Guinness World Record, to launch Alka-Seltzer rocket from NASA center


(Source: Ethan Trokie)

An NUSTARS team is one of three finalists chosen to launch its rocket from NASA’s Houston Space Center next month. The team’s rocket was judged on creativity, design and execution, a Bayer news release said.

Alan Perez, Reporter

Northwestern University Space Technology and Rocketry Society is now one step closer to setting a Guinness World Record.

The group will travel to NASA’s Houston Space Center next month for the Bayer-Big Ten Alka-Rocket Challenge. Judges named the NUSTARS team one of three finalists Wednesday after it submitted a video entry last month.

The rocket, which will be launched using only Alka-Seltzer tablets and water as fuel, was judged on its creativity, design and execution. The NUSTARS team is set to blast off Nov. 8, the second step of the challenge that was created by Bayer, the owner of Alka-Seltzer.

Teams from Rutgers University and the University of Minnesota will join NUSTARS in launching rockets for a chance to win $25,000 and set the world record for highest launch of an effervescent tablet, according to a news release.

McCormick junior Josh Werblin said the four-person team is constructing a reaction chamber out of new material to withstand the pressure. The previous design’s reaction chamber, made of polycarbonate, was not strong enough, he said.

Though the team has less than three weeks to construct the new design, Werblin said it can pull it off with hard work.

“I’m really confident with our new and improved system,” he said. “I’m really confident in my teammates — that we can beat out the competition.”

Werblin added that the new system, made of steel and custom-made couplers, will be “ridiculously strong.”

The rocket should reach an altitude of about 600 to 700 feet if the pressure is directed correctly, said McCormick junior Cindy Chen, the team’s lead structural designer.

The team submitted a video of the rocket last month to an internationally recognized panel, which included former NASA astronaut Mae Jemison, the first black woman to travel to space, the release said.

“My fellow judges and I were impressed by the quality and ingenuity of the entries we received,” Jemison said in the release. “We’re looking forward to meeting the teams who submitted the entries and, of course, to seeing these finalists launch their Alka-Rockets to win next month.”

The team with the highest launch will be recognized at the Big Ten football title game in Indianapolis.

Ray Kerins, Bayer’s head of communications, told The Daily last month the company created the competition to inspire students to study science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

“We want to continue to advance STEM education in this great country of ours,” Kerins said. “We do not graduate enough people in those fields to fill the current jobs that are in America today. … This program is about Bayer’s commitment to science and our ability to do something about it.”

While Bayer focuses on promoting STEM education at a national level, NUSTARS keeps its outreach local, Werblin said. When the society is not constructing rockets for national competitions, it focuses on promoting aerospace, exploration and space technology in after-school programs in the North Shore area.

The competition will show students what is possible if a “little bit of extra thinking and engineering” is added to a simple science experiment, Werblin said.

Chen said she hopes the team’s rocket will spark students’ inquisitiveness.

“It’s a really simple concept to grasp, but it can hopefully inspire people to be more curious about how all this actually works,” she said. “It’s just a good way to get people to ask questions and see how cool stuff can be if you really delve in.”

Email: [email protected]