HUNTSVILLE, Ala., July 24, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- After eight months of late nights writing reports, early morning presentations to NASA rocketry experts, and weekends spent building, testing, flying, and perfecting their machines, the mission is complete for the 54 teams of the 2020 NASA Student Launch competition. The category and overall winners were announced virtually July 23. Vanderbilt Aerospace Design Lab from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, claimed top honors for the seventh time in the last eight years.

"This year's teams showed true innovation and determination as they tackled the new payload challenge and the unconventional methods we had to employ to complete the competition," said Fred Kepner, an education program specialist and lead for Student Launch at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, host of the competition. "Despite the unique obstacles they faced this year, their commitment to technical excellence and carrying on in the spirit of the competition never wavered."

Although the annual launch finale event was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, teams were still able to complete most of the design, building and testing portions of the competition.

NASA Student Launch challenges middle school, high school, college, and university teams from across the United States to build and fly a high-powered amateur rocket carrying a complex payload to over 4,000 feet above the ground. The rocket then must descend and land safely before its scientific or engineering payload can begin its work. This year's competition drew teams from 19 states and Puerto Rico.

College and university teams developed payloads to navigate to a designated sample site, retrieve a simulated sample of planetary ice, and navigate at least 10 feet away from the site with the sample stored safely aboard. How they tackled the challenge was up to them. Middle and high school teams could elect to attempt the college/university division challenge, or they could propose a scientific or engineering payload of their own curiosity.

The Vanderbilt team will receive a $5,000 award from Marshall industry partner Northrop Grumman for their win. The University of North Carolina at Charlotte finished in second place and will receive a $2,500 award from the National Space Club – Huntsville. The Rookie Award, given to the top new team in the competition, was won by the University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez Campus.

The top 10 finishers in the college/university division are:

Vanderbilt UniversityUniversity of North Carolina at CharlotteUniversity of Alabama in HuntsvilleUniversity of Akron, OhioNorth Carolina State University, RaleighUniversity of Notre Dame, South Bend, IndianaAuburn University, Auburn, AlabamaOregon State University, CorvallisPurdue University, West Lafayette, IndianaUniversity of Cincinnati, Ohio

Teams earn points for progress and successes during the eight-month competition, and the team with the most points wins. Awards also are presented in 11 different categories that range from payload design and safety to best social media presence and STEM – science, technology, engineering and mathematics – outreach.

2020 Category Award Winners

Rookie Award, presented to the top rookie team in the college and university division:1st Place: University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez Campus2nd Place: University of California Los Angeles3rd Place: University of Texas at Arlington Judges' Choice Award (Middle/High School Division), presented to the middle or high school team that is selected by a secret panel of judges to have had the most creative payload, best design and workmanship of its rocket. This includes a $2,000 prize from the National Space Club:1st Place: Notre Dame Academy, Los Angeles2nd Place: Harrison Central School District, Harrison, New York3rd Place: (Tie) Madison West High School, Madison, WisconsinNativity Catholic School, Burke, Virginia Best Vehicle Design Award, presented to the team with the most creative, innovative and safety-conscious overall rocket design:1st Place: Vanderbilt University2nd Place: University of Florida, Gainesville3rd Place: University of North Carolina at Charlotte Payload Design Award (College Division), presented to the team with the most creative and innovative payload design while maximizing safety and science value:1st Place: University of North Carolina at Charlotte2nd Place: Vanderbilt University3rd Place: Purdue University Safety Award (College Division), presented to the team that most successfully maximized safety and science value in its design:1st Place: University of Alabama in Huntsville2nd Place: Vanderbilt University3rd Place: University of North Carolina at Charlotte Project Review Award (College Division), presented to the team with the best combination of written reviews and formal presentations:1st Place: University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez Campus2nd Place: Vanderbilt University3rd Place: California State University, Long Beach STEM Engagement Award (College Division), presented to the team that best informed others about rocketry and other space-related topics. This includes a $1,000 prize from the National Association of Rocketry:1st Place: Oregon State University2nd Place: University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez Campus3rd Place: Citrus College, Glendora, California STEM Engagement Award (Middle/High School Division), presented to the team that best informed others about rocketry and other space-related topics. This includes a $1,000 prize from the National Association of Rocketry:1st Place: Madison West High School2nd Place: Notre Dame Academy3rd Place: Oak Park High School, Oak Park, California Altitude Award (College Division), presented to the college or university team that comes closest to its declared target altitude on as recorded in their Flight Readiness Review:1st Place: University of Florida – 50 feet from predicted altitude2nd Place: University of Tennessee, Knoxville – 52 feet from predicted altitude3rd Place: Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois – 83 feet from predicted altitude Altitude Award (Middle/High School Division), presented to the middle or high school team that comes closest to its declared target altitude as recorded in their Flight Readiness Review:1st Place: Sierra Vista Middle School, Irvine, California – 7 feet from predicted altitude2nd Place: Nativity Catholic School – 8 feet from predicted altitude3rd Place: Creekview High School, Canton, Georgia – 124 feet from predicted altitude Social Media Award (College Division), presented to the college or university team that has the most active and creative social media presence throughout the project year:1st Place: Purdue University2nd Place: North Carolina State University3rd Place: Citrus College Social Media Award (Middle/High School Division), presented to the middle or high school team that has the most active and creative social media presence throughout the project year:1st Place: Madison West High School2nd Place: Oakton High School, Vienna, Virginia3rd Place: Minster Journeyman, Minister, Ohio Best-Looking Rocket Award (College Division), presented to the college or university team that is judged by their peers to have had the best-looking rocket:1st Place: University of Cincinnati2nd Place: Citrus College3rd Place: (Tie) Purdue UniversityVanderbilt University Best-Looking Rocket Award (Middle/High School Division), presented to the middle or high school team that is judged by its peers to have had the best-looking rocket:1st Place: Oak Park High School2nd Place: Sylvania Northview High School, Sylvania, Ohio3rd Place: (Tie) East Fairmont Middle School, Fairmont, West VirginiaMinster Journeyman Team Spirit Award (College Division), presented to the college or university team that is judged by its peers to have had the best team spirit:1st Place: University of California, Santa Cruz2nd Place: (Tie) University of California, DavisUniversity of Notre Dame Team Spirit (Middle/High School Division), presented to the middle or high school team that is judged by its peers to have had the best team spirit:1st Place: Harrison Central School District2nd Place: Sylvania Northview High School3rd Place: Engineering and Technologies Academy at Roosevelt High School, San Antonio, Texas

For 20 years, Student Launch has provided a realistic experience to students that resembles the development, test, and operational lifecycle NASA and industry engineers use when developing and operating new hardware. It is one of the seven Artemis Student Challenges.

Marshall's Office of STEM Engagement manages Student Launch to stimulate innovation and advance NASA's mission through collaboration with educational institutions and students – the next-generation that will help us explore the Moon and travel even farther to Mars. It also furthers NASA's goal of attracting and encouraging students to pursue degrees and careers in the STEM fields. NASA's Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate and the Office of STEM Engagement, as well as Northrop Grumman, and the Huntsville chapter of the National Space Club provide funding and leadership for the initiative.

For more information about NASA's Student Launch, visit:

https://www.nasa.gov/education/studentlaunch

For more information about NASA's Artemis Student Challenges, visit:

https://www.nasa.gov/stem/artemis.html

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SOURCE NASA

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