Rocketry team readies for April competition

March 22, 2013
Trent Cybela (left) and Kyle Anderson inspect their rocket.


PLATTEVILLE, Wis. — As a branch of the Society of Physics Students at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, the UW-Platteville Rocketry Team will take to the skies on Saturday, April 6 at the Milwaukee School of Engineering and Richard Bong State Park outside of Brighton, Wis. to test fly their self-designed rocket in the Collegiate Rocket Launch Competition hosted by the Wisconsin Space Grant Consortium, or Space Grant. The competition calls for competitors to design a one-stage, high-powered rocket that will accurately achieve a height of 3,000 feet and be recovered safely and in flyable condition. Teams must also give a presentation of their design report as well as pass a safety inspection and compare predicted results versus actual results from an on-board Sensors Suite, which includes an accelerometer.

“We have aimed to go above and beyond the competition expectations for this competition,” said Trent Cybela, president of the team and a mechanical engineering major from Brown Deer, Wis. “We built things for our rocket not because they were mandated, but because we want to show that we are there to compete and to perform to the best of our ability.”

Left-right: Jake Carey, Kyle Anderson, Weston Woolcock, Nathan Asner and Trent Cybela.


Cybela completed an internship for Kohler Company, which is where he first came across the Great Lakes Aerospace Science and Education Center, a non-profit organization known otherwise as Space Port Sheboygan. It is an aerospace company that frequently launches rockets in the area. With that, plus an interest in building models in his basement, Cybela developed a passion for rockets that would lead him to his chosen area of study and eventually founding the UW-Platteville Rocketry Team.

“In the summer of 2012, I attended Space Grant’s annual conference, and at the end of one of the presentations, several students came out to present rockets that they had designed for the Space Grant competition,” Cybela said. “It sounded like something I would be interested in. Later on I worked with Dr. Bill Hudson, dean of the College of Engineering, Math and Science, and Duane Foust, physics laboratory manager, to be part of the Society of Physics Students and transition into an actual team.”

Space Grant requires a minimum of three to four people in order to form a full team, but by the end of September 2012, Cybela found himself with close to 25 volunteers, all of whom wanted to expand their knowledge of physics and aerospace engineering to build a competition-level rocket.

“As a leader, it was very challenging,” Cybela said. “I had a lot of people looking for guidance, but I was still working on the basics of the concepts myself. We learned very early on that everything has to be written down. So if a teammate proposes an idea or solution, we will tell him to research it, cite sources and submit information to us on how to do it and how to implement it.”

The team now has a solid base of around 10 people who have the interest to continue on through the final stages of the competition.

“This team is a good leadership opportunity for those willing to take the time and put forth the effort,” said Chris Beckman, a mechanical engineering major from Chilton, Wis. and vice-president of the team. “Aerospace development is crucial as a field and profession, and teams like this are great résumé builders.”

Space Grant requires that all teams hand over their rockets on launch day to professionals who have achieved the proper certification and qualifications to launch them.

“Our team actually went out and received its level-one certification, which we are very proud of,” said Cybela. “So not only can we launch our own rocket at the competition, but it also gives us the opportunity to test-fire models before the competition to see what works and what does not. Sometimes it’s a process of trial and error, and actually running a test flight is far more beneficial than running simulations on software. By testing it ahead of time, we can see our mistakes and correct them so that we can be as prepared as possible come launch day.”

The team must attend a safety check held at Ripon College on March 9 as well as finalize their rocket and work out all the details for the competition itself.

“As a team, we are not only putting together a rocket, but also establishing a baseline of rocketeers who could train the next generation,” Cybela said. “We want UW-Platteville to be recognized on a state level as a place to be for people who have rocketry as an interest. Many kids have dreamed about being astronauts, and all of us have looked up at the sky at one point thinking that we could touch the moon if we stretched just a little farther. Rocketry is an extension of trying to get that extra inch, and I hope that it will be something that is here to stay.”

Contact: Trent Cybela, President, UW-Platteville Rocketry Team,

Written by: Angela O’Brien, UW-Platteville Office of University Information and Communications, (608) 342-1194,



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