Base 11 Awards Initial Prizes in $1M+ Student Rocketry Contest

Former astronaut Leland Melvin encourages students to persevere as they continue to build and test their rockets.

Former astronaut Leland Melvin encourages students to persevere as they continue to build and test their rockets.

Base 11 awards for a student rocketry contest were presented at Caltech during an event for students, academics, corporate leaders and aerospace recruiters that featured a keynote by former NASA astronaut Leland Melvin. Image courtesy of Base 11.

Base 11 announced the winners of the prizes for Phase 1—the design phase—of the Base 11 Space Challenge, a student rocketry competition with more than $1 million in prizes on the line, and the ultimate goal to increase diversity in the aerospace workforce. More than $50,000 in prizes were awarded to rocketry teams from University of Michigan (first place), Concordia University (second place), and Portland State University (third place). A separate $1 million purse ultimately will go to the first university team to build a liquid-fuel rocket that successfully reaches space.

The awards were presented at Caltech during a day-long event for students, academics, corporate leaders and aerospace recruiters that featured a keynote by former NASA astronaut Leland Melvin. In addition to serving as an awards ceremony, the event kicked off Base 11’s “Next Frontier Tour.” Over the next 18 months, Melvin will speak at four more sites across the country to inspire students, academic institutions and corporate partners to come together to increase diversity in the workforce of emerging industries like aerospace and data science. 

Thirty-two teams registered for the Base 11 Space Challenge last year, and 25 teams submitted their preliminary design reports for Phase 1 of the competition this spring. Those reports were evaluated by expert judges from Blue Origin, SpaceX, Reaction Research Society and Tripoli Rocketry Association. The top five teams were present to pitch their plans for outreach, fundraising and succession planning for their rocketry programs on Monday at the Next Frontier event.

“I was inspired by the incredible amount of energy and passion from our future explorers,” says Melvin. “Congratulations to the Phase I winners in the Base 11 Space Challenge. You’ve set a high bar, but this competition is far from over, and I can’t wait to see how you creatively overcome challenges in the next year.”

Phase 1 Winners:

1st Place ($25,000)—University of Michigan

2nd Place ($15,000)—Concordia University

3rd Place ($10,000)—Portland State University

Honorable mentions: 

University of British Columbia

University of California, San Diego 

Early Adopter Dassault Systèmes 3DEXPERIENCE

1st Place ($5,000)—Portland State University

2nd Place ($2,500)—Concordia University

“The judges were deeply impressed by the outstanding work the student teams put into their rocket designs for Phase 1 of the Base 11 Space Challenge,” says Landon Taylor, chairman and CEO of Base 11. “If this first year has taught us anything, it’s how exciting and unpredictable this field is — the boldest goals, the greatest innovations, the strongest determination can come from unexpected places.”

The Space Challenge is supported by a number of engineering and aerospace companies that care about increasing diversity in the STEM workforce. Dassault Systèmes is a Chairman’s Circle Partner, providing both financial support and granting licenses for all of the teams to use their 3DEXPERIENCE platform to design and collaborate on the project. Blue Origin, SpaceX and Firefly Aerospace are all Platinum Level Partners.

Sources: Press materials received from the company and additional information gleaned from the company’s website.

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