Rocket recap: 'Three winners' at tribal launch

The first First Nations Launch — a rocket competition for tribal college teams from across the nation — went off without a hitch May 1 at a state wildlife and recreation area near Burlington, Wis.

Final standings won’t be known until late May, once participating teams have finished their post-flight summaries for evaluation by a team of rocket-science experts. But organizers were pleased by the successful flights, one after another, of collegian-built rockets up to 16 feet in length, some of which soared nearly two miles into the sky.

“There could have been three first-place winners, based on how well the teams performed,” commented Norbert Hill Jr., a launch-day observer and vice president of the College of Menominee Nation.

The Five Clans Rocket Team from CMN scored highest on a key measure: predicting their flight’s apogee. The students forecast 2,200 feet. When they recovered their mid-range rocket, nicknamed the Red Hawk (shown here at launch), the on-board altimeter confirmed its twin parachutes had deployed at precisely 2,200 feet.Likewise, the student teams from Haskell Tribal College in Lawrence, Kan., with a high-altitude craft, and Northwest Indian College in Bellingham, Wash., with several individual entries, hit their altitude targets almost dead-on despite relatively breezy conditions.

CMN students who traveled to the First Nations event were (photo, from left) Willie Garza, Lisa Annamitta, Judy Cornelius, Worden Waukechon, Lanna Otradovec and Theo Kurowski. The College of Menominee Nation rocketry group includes students and advisers who are enrolled Oneida and Menominee tribal members, and some who are not. The students take classes at the Green Bay satellite location of the main campus in Keshena.

The first-ever tribal competition was organized by the Wisconsin Space Grant Consortium headquartered at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. Three other tribal colleges entered the competition but didn’t reach the flight stage. Sending observers were Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College of Cloquet, Minn.; Leech Lake Tribal College of nearby Cass Lake, Minn.; and, from Rosebud, S.D., Sinte Gleska University.

For a selection of photos from the First Nations Launch, click here.

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