Photo courtesy of solar navigator.net

By TERRY LAKINS, Student Life Editor

Photo courtesy of solarnavigator.net
Photo courtesy of solar navigator.net

The Michigan Aeronautical Science Association is a student organization that focuses on designing, building and launching rockets. This organization, loosely referred to as the “rocket club,” is well defined for the challenge, hard work and different components members have to endure for a rocket to reach full completion. Unlike other organizations, which usually have a strong social scene, MASA is all business and is very focused on reaching its ultimate goal. Chris Bargman, the president of the organization, feels MASA gives members a place where like-minded people can work together to create something great.

“It’s about giving students an opportunity to explore interests in space and aeronautical,” Bargman said. “There’s really nowhere else at the school to do this.”

Bargman said the members are split into two main groups when working on the rocket. The first group focuses on the mechanical side of things, which includes overall design, basic measurements and preparations to make everything structurally sound so the rocket can launch. The second group focuses on the electronic side of things, also known as avionics when dealing with any form of aircraft. This includes heavy research on the necessary components such as microprocessors, pressure, temperature, UV radiation and possible visual processing. Bargman said the process of building a full scale rocket also requires members to build a similar but smaller rocket first for testing purposes. Once the members get the results they want from the smaller test rocket they set out to build the actual full scale rocket. Members make this happen by having weekly meetings, setting goals and collaborating with each other.    

Bargman said once the group finishes their goal they want to compete in rocket based competitions, where participants launch their rocket one mile above ground and conduct research and a full analysis. Bargman also said they specifically want to compete at the NASA student launch competition in Huntsville, Alabama.

“I picked this competition because you get to follow real NASA engineers,” Bargman said. “If you have interest in NASA or the space research industry as a whole, you’re not gonna get better experience where you can interact with their engineers and programs.”

Bargman said in the future, the organization will do test runs with the Jackson Model Rocketry Club, which will give members the chance to mingle with other like-minded people in the same field. Raquel De La Graza, a member of MASA, said working towards making a rocket is a growth process and often the first set of ideas may not work.

“Part of being innovative is trying things. If [it] doesn’t work, you try different things. It’s part of the process.” Graza said.

While being forced to take a different direction can be frustrating, it also forces members to think outside of the box. Graza also said the process of learning how to reroute and regroup in a different direction is a skill in itself.

“People in MASA come with different skill levels, backgrounds, styles of thinking and points of view,” Graza said. “But they all come and work together because of their enthusiasm for the process.”

While this organization is fairly new, Bargman said he hopes the group will grow in time and hopes to get a corporate sponsorship. Bargman also said no prior knowledge in any particular field is needed to join, but it is highly recommended. Bargman encourages anyone with an interest in microprocessors, embedded systems, mechanical engineering, aerospace engineering, electrical engineering or business to check the organization out. Anyone interested in MASA can contact them at cbargman@umich.edu.