Engineering rocket team among top ten in nation in NASA launch competition

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ROCKET_2This spring, a group of student engineers from Lipscomb’s Raymond B. Jones College of Engineering went where none before them have gone. They placed in the top ten in the nation in the 18th annual NASA Student Launch Competition.

The Bison Ballistics team, representing Lipscomb University, in its first year of competition, completed the eight-month project building a rocket. Student Launch is an annual competition that challenges competing student teams to propose, design, build and test a reusable rocket that flies to 1 mile in altitude, deploys a recovery system and returns safely to the ground, while carrying a payload of scientific or engineering value.

The team of Lipscomb student engineers put their rocket to the final test on April 8 in a North Alabama field as 45 teams from 23 states launched their student-built rockets in the annual Student Launch Competition, hosted by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. The Lipscomb rocket had a successful launch. (Read more).

The team finished in the ninth position overall and earned third place in the Rookie Award. Other universities placing teams in the top ten in the 2018 competition are Vanderbilt University; University of North Carolina-Charlotte; the University of Louisville; California State University; Long Beach, Long Beach; Cornell University; Oregon State University; California State Polytechnic University; Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Notre Dame. Bison Ballistics placed third in the rookie category behind Oregon State University and Carnegie Mellon University.

“As NASA builds its next deep-space exploration rocket, the Space Launch System, it is important to inspire and help grow the next generation of engineers and explorers. Student Launch provides an opportunity for students to conduct research while also gaining invaluable workforce training,” said Katie Wallace, Student Launch manager. “It’s exciting to see the teams’ ideas and originality during the competition.”

ROCKET_3Joseph Tipton, associate professor and chair of the mechanical engineering department, and Jericho Locke, who graduated in May with a Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering and applied mathematics, led the team. Students who were part of the team include mechanical engineering students Austin BrownCaleb Davenport Caleb Stubbs and Taylor Wright and electrical and computer engineering students Jeffrey Gage and Ryan Seal.ROCKET_sky view

“All seniors in the engineering department are required to complete a capstone engineering project before graduating, and the NASA student launch was one of the options. I chose to participate in the rocket project because it represented an engineering challenge, a unique opportunity to found a project on Lipscomb’s campus."

Locke also acknowledged the importance of NASA Student Launch Competition in his career.

“In general, this project teaches a lot about personal responsibility, managing a project, working in a professional environment, and basic technical skills. As the team leader, I certainly learned a lot about leadership and project management that I hope to start using immediately,” Locke said.

“I am not working in the aerospace industry, but I most likely will be working on space-related issues. My company was very interested in my work on this project. Several of our team members are interested in the aerospace industry, and this project gave them experience and the contacts that have lead to interviews and even some jobs.”

Locke is currently working in Washington, D.C., for the Science and Technology Policy Institute.

For more pictures of the Student Launch day, visit

For more information about the Raymond B. Jones College of Engineering, visit