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The 2021 NASA Student Launch team

Rocket Team Qualifies for NASA Competition

by Clem Boyd

Mechanical engineering seniors Forrest Putnam and Chad Sanderson prepare the subscale rocket for launchThe Cedarville Student Launch team has qualified for the 2022 NASA Student Launch competition on April 22-23 at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

After numerous tests of their full-scale rocket resulted in early deployment or non-deployment of a parachute to slow down descent, the team experienced a successful launch and parachute deployment on April 3.

As with previous launches, the full-scale prototype of their “Forerunner” rocket lifted off from the Wright Stuff Rocketeers’ Launch Site at 5995 Federal Road in Cedarville, a site approved by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

“We came up with a good solution to our parachute problem, and it worked," said senior mechanical engineering major and team leader Chad Sanderson of North Huntingdon, Pennsylvania.

"I really believe how all of the operation played out and the idea we came up with for the parachute was the Lord. We look forward to attending the competition not just for a successful launch but also to be a light for Christ among all the other teams." 

In addition to a successful launch, team members also took part in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) engagement activities with third graders at Cedar Cliff Elementary School in February and fellow college students in March in fulfillment of another aspect of the NASA requirements.

Cedarville will be competing against college teams from across the country, including Purdue, Notre Dame, Cal Poly, the U.S. Air Force Academy, and the U.S. Naval Academy, among many others.

In addition to Sanderson, who is leading the team and designing the motor mount, Cedarville’s team also consists of seniors Jacob Titus of Medford, New Jersey, who is leading work on the aerobrake system; Peter Duttweiler of Montgomery, Texas, and Nehemiah Branson of Kingston, Ohio, who are working on the rocket payload; Dawson Tso of Dublin, New Hampshire, who is leading work on rocket recovery and safety; Forrest Putnam of Glenwood, Washington, who is leading work on the nose cone and simulations; and Grant Dupler of Amanda, Ohio, who will be leading construction of the body and fin.

The team also includes two juniors, with Grace Fearday of Kettering, Ohio, working on rocket avionics and Stuart Nowery of Lebanon, Ohio, testing and modeling the rocket. Sophomore Josh Lukawski of Wantage, New Jersey, has also worked on rocket modeling. Finally, the team includes two freshmen, with Daniel Hogsed of Dayton, Ohio, leading work on the sub-scale rocket, and Joseph Copeland of Hamilton, Ohio, working on rocket construction.

Team advisors are Dr. Tom Ward, associate professor of mechanical engineering, and Dr. Tim Tuinstra, professor of electrical engineering. 

This is the first year Cedarville’s team has participated in the NASA Student Launch competition, which challenges university students across the country to design, build and successfully launch rockets while also promoting STEM education in the communities where their schools are located.

Located in southwest Ohio, Cedarville University is an accredited, Christ-centered, Baptist institution with an enrollment of 4,715 undergraduate, graduate, and online students in more than 150 areas of study. Founded in 1887, Cedarville is one of the largest private universities in Ohio, recognized nationally for its authentic Christian community, rigorous academic programs, including the Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering program, strong graduation and retention rates, accredited professional and health science offerings, and high student engagement ranking. For more information about the University, visit

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