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Open Source Rocket Academy: Setting the Standards for a Well-trained and Greener Aerospace Industry

Open Source Rocket Academy team from Maseeh College of Engineering and Computer Science

Hailing from Portland State University, Open Source Rocket Academy’s goal is to provide aspiring aerospace engineers with the tools and training needed to work with liquid oxygen-propelled rocket engines. To achieve this goal, the team is developing the necessary hardware for engineering students to train with and an open-source curriculum to reinforce the skills needed to enter the aerospace industry.

Open Source Rocket Academy are Jennifer Jordan, an undergraduate electrical engineering major at PSU, Kathleen Joslyn, a PSU undergraduate studying mathematics, Risto Rushford, a graduate student studying electrical engineering, and Theresa Nguyen, a mechanical engineering student.

What is the specific environmental, social, or community problem your team seeks to address?

We are setting the standards for liquid propulsion certification and training that have never been formalized in the rocket launch industry. Most aerospace focused college graduates only have experience using solid rocket motors, which are single-use, expensive, and environmentally unfriendly. Furthermore, solid motors are no longer widely used as a propulsion method except in missile applications. Liquid propulsion is more environmentally friendly than solid motors and allows for reusable and recyclable systems. However, liquid propulsion technologies are held proprietary by corporations and there is limited availability of standards and safety guidelines. Since new aerospace engineers typically have no experience working on these systems they undergo up to a year of basic hands-on training. Our certification program is a cost-effective alternative that creates more access to more engineers.

What is the market for your team’s invention?

The rocket launch industry lacks a standardized training program to provide engineering students with sufficient knowledge and experience in liquid propulsion. Rocket companies spend up to $80,000 in training costs per new-hire engineer annually, we offer a cost-effective alternative for providing hands-on experience. We anticipate this to be the case for as many as 7000 individuals per year. Through a nationwide survey sent out to Students for the Exploration and Discovery of Space as well as interviews with recent engineer alumnus, we learned this idea resonated with a lot of people in the student rocketry community.

If your team wins InventOR, what is your plan for the prize money?

We will upgrade the engine design to be less expensive to produce in bulk, we will streamline the design of the test stand to be more mobile, and we will continue to build our certification curriculum.

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