High school students from eight different schools are using composites and 3-D printing to improve NASA’s future rocket designs. The 2015 NASA Student Launch Challenge challenges students to create rockets that are reusable, carry a payload that makes any type of scientific measurements and travel at least one mile upward. The research results from the scientific measurements will be collected by NASA and used in the future design and development of NASA projects.

One participating school, St. Vincent-St. Mary in Akron, Ohio, has created a rocket made from carbon fiber composite materials sturdy enough to carry a computerized pitot tube to measure the vehicle’s air speed. The aft unit, which contains the booster and fin section, is made of ULTEM*9085 resin, a flame-retardant high-performance thermoplastic from Stratasys. The resin has high tensile and compressive strengths that can stand up to the temperatures of the rocket’s blast.

To 3-D print their design, the 11 students on the project team partnered with a local company, Rapid Prototype and Manufacturing (rp+m). In addition to designing and building the rocket, the students raised about $10,000 to pay for the construction of the rocket and travel to Huntsville, Ala. to participate in the competition.

The other finalists in the 2015 NASA Student Launch challenge are Durham Area Rocketry from Durham, N.C.; Krueger Middle School in San Antonio, Texas; Madison West High School (Land Imaging) and Madison West High School (Muons) in Madison, Wis.; Plantation High School in Plantation, Fla.; Spring Grove High School in Spring Grove, Pa.; and Victory Christian Center School in Charlotte, N.C.