UA Engineering Students Host Rocket Contest at Nearby Middle School

TUSCALOOSA,  Ala. — A water-rocket contest among middle-school students March 24 is the culmination of an outreach effort by students from The University of Alabama.

UA students assisted sixth-grade science teachers at Hillcrest Middle School in Tuscaloosa County to prepare students for the competition, which will be at the Hillcrest football field off Patriot Parkway at 2 p.m.

Two student groups — members of UA Students for the Exploration and Development of Space, or SEDS, along with a design team of aerospace engineering students called Project Firefly that focuses on rocketry — helped instruct students on the importance of rockets and space exploration.

They also taught the students about rocket design and engineering along with preparing them for the contest, said Cassidy McCool, a member of SEDS and a junior from Tuscaloosa studying mechanical engineering.

During the competition, rockets will take off from an air pressurized launch pad aimed across the football field. The UA students will measure the distance each rocket traveled and assist the Hillcrest students to identify the design factors that helped efficiency or hindered performance.

The winning team will get a replica of the rocket made on a 3-D printer to display in the school, McCool said.

“The Tuscaloosa Rocketry Challenge is more than just a competition,” McCool said. “This experience exposes Tuscaloosa middle schoolers to the wonders of space exploration and the excitement of forming an idea, physically creating it, giving their invention a functional purpose and testing its capabilities. Above all, these students are reminded that they can create and be anything that they can imagine.”

This is the first year UA SEDS, a student organization interested in the benefits of space exploration, has been on campus, and the group chose Hillcrest Middle for this outreach effort because McCool graduated from Hillcrest High School and attended its feeder schools. However, the group hopes to expand to more schools with the goal of having school teams compete against each other.

“We want to expose this community to what The University of Alabama and the College of Engineering offer,” she said. “This program will cause Tuscaloosa County middle schoolers to realize their potential, to consider all of the possibilities and will inspire them to literally shoot for the stars.”


Adam Jones, engineering public relations, 205/348-6444,


Cassidy McCool, UA student and members of SEDS,