Rocket Team Soars in Competition

Andrew McPartland carries the "Brass Knuckle" to launch pad 73 at the NASA Student Launch Challenge on April 13 with teammate Amanda Solorio. Photo Contributed.

By Maggie Beamguard

Insider Editor

Andrew McPartland and his teammates at UNC-Charlotte waited two months to learn the final results of the 2024 NASA University Student Launch challenge.

They competed against 49 other teams in April to design and launch a rocket design and payload that met the competition parameters.

It was worth the wait. When the awards were announced in June, the Seven Lakes West resident and his teammates learned that their design and launch of  “Brass Knuckle” earned them third place overall behind the University of Notre Dame (first place) and Iowa State University (second place.)

Additionally, the UNC team rocket won the second place AIAA Reusable Launch Vehicle Award, the second place STEM Engagement Award, and the third place Safety Award.

Weighing in at 31 pounds and measuring 4.5 inches in diameter and 5.75 feet long, the team’s rocket baby, “The Brass Knuckle,” took them nine months to build from conception to competition at the NASA University Student Launch Initiative.

McPartland’s team was one of 49 that made it to launch week from an original group of 70.

McPartland, who graduated from UNC Charlotte in May with a Bachelor of Science in mechanical engineering, chose to participate in the NASA USLI for his senior design project.

Throughout the nine-month competition, teams presented extensive documentation to NASA Engineers for feedback and critique before manufacturing and testing their original rockets. Points were awarded to teams along the way.

The UNC Charlotte Team worked in two groups, a vehicle team and a payload team.

The rocket was mostly built in-house using the university’s 3D printing lab and machine shop. The carbon fiber airframes were outsourced and then refined in-house, including sanding and painting. Unique to their project, and the inspiration for their rocket’s name, was the brass nose cone tip, weighing in at over one pound.