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College of Engineering Rocket Car Rally: Two decades of rocket car racing

Picture by Kirsten Dodson

On Friday, Feb. 23, during Lipscomb’s Giving Week and National Engineers Week, the College of Engineering kicked off its annual “Rocket Car Rally” for students to compete in.

The competition has been a long-standing College of Engineering tradition for about two decades and invites students of all years and various interests in STEM to compete. 

The preparation begins every year with students establishing their teams and being given a small wedge of wood [about eight inches by two inches wide] two weeks prior to the competition. They then modify and transform their wood wedges into their rocket cars. The students are allowed to paint, sand, and add various accessories to their cars to make them their own. The final touch comes when a small rocket engine is attached to the car, and then they’re ready to race. 

“It’s just a fun activity because we really like to highlight National Engineers Week and make sure our students feel like they’re having fun, and that they get some opportunities to do things that are outside the classroom,” Dr. Kirsten Dodson, an associate professor and Chair of the Engineering Department, said when asked about what the Rocket Car Rally allows students to do for students.

For this year’s race, eight cars were entered. The competition was gauged by a bracket, having two cars race at a time to see who would move on to the next level until the two top cars competed.

This year, the winning team was comprised of four students: Laurence Miranda, Kevin Mendez, Van Uk, Josue Garcia, and Josue Garcia. Their rocket car, “Huh,” sported a purple and green curved body, and a pointed front end for a more aerodynamic advantage. 

Laurance Miranda, a sophomore mechanical engineering major from Nashville and a member of the winning team, talked about his team’s strategy while designing the car. “We drew inspiration from the F1 (Formula 1) cars, and we just went from there. We had it more curvy instead of rigid.” Miranda said.

He went on to talk about his favorite part of the experience. “I think my favorite part was the building process because we didn’t have enough time, so we built it the day of the competition.” 

For the past two decades, the annual Rocket Car Rally has been in place to help students experiment with design, building, and amateur rocketry. The tradition is designed to not only bring engineering students, but also students apart of various STEM majors to compete and get a feel for real, hands-on experimentation in designing the most functional outcome for their cars as possible.