VCU’s Ram Rocketry student organization competed at Battle of the Rockets for a second year in a row this past April. The event also served as a Tripoli Rocketry Association launch site, where multiple students achieved their high-powered rocketry certifications.
Held in Culpeper, VA, the students gathered in a sprawling field among other rocketry associations from various high schools and universities. The competition spanned three days with three separate events taking place, each ranging in complexity and designed to test all skill levels.
Ram Rocketry participated in the deployable payload sensor event, in which the students were required to build a rocket that would launch between 800 and 1,500 feet, as well as design a payload that would deploy from the rocket. The payload was also required to capture telemetry signals and relay the captured data back to the associated ground station.
Keely Cooley, the current president of Ram Rocketry, described the process of preparing the team’s rocket for the competition.
“We had a hardware and a software team. The hardware team was working on building the rocket and designing the payload while the software team was working on designing the ground station. They worked on coding that as well as picking sensors and then helping those integrate into the 3D printed payload.”
While Ram Rocketry did not place this year, six members of the team were able to achieve their Tripoli high-powered rocketry certification during the competition weekend. The Tripoli Rocketry Association is an organization that works to enhance the education and safety of high-powered rocketry across the globe, offering three levels of certification based on complexity. One of the goals of Ram Rocketry is to help students achieve these certifications. Over the course of the Spring 2023 semester, eight students earned their level one certification, and seven earned their level two certification.
“We really have grown this year, and hope to have a lot more people helping next year,” said Cooley. “I think it's brought a lot of people together. We got to meet a lot of new people that we wouldn’t have been able to without the student organization. I think that’s one of the best parts, you get to see people come out of their shell and learn about rocketry, but also connect with people.”
According to Cooley, Ram Rocketry has big plans for the future. The student organization intends to compete at the Spaceport America Cup this coming year, the largest Intercollegiate Rocket Engineering Competition (IREC) for student rocketry groups across the world.
Ram Rocketry gives students the opportunity to work up-close with high-powered rocketry, applying theoretical knowledge gained in the classroom to hands-on engineering experience. Competitions like Battle of the Rockets allow students to further engage with the burgeoning aerospace community while making key connections with both industry professionals and peers alike. In addition to being a student organization, Ram Rocketry is also one of VCU engineering’s vertically integrated projects (VIP), in which students can earn elective credit for faculty guided, collaborative projects.
If you are interested in joining or wish to learn more about Ram Rocketry, contact Robert Klenke, Ph.D, acting electrical and computer engineering department chair and student organization faculty advisor, or Frank Gulla, mechanical and nuclear engineering professor and VIP advisor.