UA Rocket Team Ready for Launch

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — A team of University of Alabama students known as the Yellowhammers will compete in the NASA Student Launch challenge May 15-17 at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Tooele County, Utah.

The students must construct and launch a model rocket capable of soaring one mile into the air.

The Yellowhammers, formerly an all-female team called the Rocket Girls, recently transitioned into a co-ed team. They began preparing for the competition in the summer of 2013. After securing grants for the project, the team presented a proposal to NASA.

Every year the team constructs a new rocket and usually names it after a famous astronaut. This year, the team went a different route, naming its 144-inch rocket after the mythical Olympian god Hermes, famous in some myths for being able to move freely between the mortal world and the heavens.

This year’s competition requires each team equip its rockets with a parachute-based recovery system. To accomplish this, the Hermes rocket can deploy a parachute to slow the rocket as it reaches the highest altitude near 20,000 feet above ground, and then another parachute is deployed when it descends to an altitude of 900 feet.

The team is also required to equip the rocket with three payloads capable of delivering data. For this reason, the team equipped Hermes with a GoPro Hero video camera capable of scanning the ground for hazards and, through the use of custom computer software, report its findings back to the team on the ground.

At the competition, the Yellowhammers will compete against more than 20 other college teams who also passed required milestones since the contest began last fall.

Each team will be judged on both the success of its launch and payload deployment alongside supporting documentation. Additionally, students will be subjected to a rigorous launch readiness review designed to emulate those of real-life NASA flight missions.

Yellowhammers team members include:

  • Bryan Anderson in aerospace engineering, from Hoover
  • Haleigh Ball in aerospace engineering, from Tuscaloosa
  • Jake Barson in aerospace engineering, from Tuscaloosa
  • Shelby Cochran in aerospace engineering, from Albertville
  • Alex Grammer in aerospace engineering, from Tuscaloosa
  • Brendan Mangan in aerospace engineering, from Grand Rapids, Michigan
  • Christopher Richey in classical mathematics and physics, from Muscle Shoals
  • Noelle Ridlehuber in aerospace engineering, from Simpsonville, South Carolina
  • Matthew Warren in aerospace engineering, from Pensacola, Florida

In 1837, The University of Alabama became one of the first five universities in the nation to offer engineering classes. Today, UA’s fully accredited College of Engineering has more than 4,500 students and more than 120 faculty. In the last eight years, students in the College have been named USA Today All-USA College Academic Team members, Goldwater, Hollings, Portz, Mitchell and Truman scholars.


Adam Jones, engineering public relations, 205/348-6444,; Judah Martin, engineering student writer,