Rocket Power! Louisville students compete amongst the country’s best to spread the love of rocketry

By on August 20, 2012


by Anna Meany–

Louisville students have shown the country what we’re capable. Most notably, the University of Louisville’s athletic teams brought national attention to our campus. Continuing to impress, students from U of L competed for the first time and placed fifth in NASA’s University Student Launch Initiative competition that took place earlier this summer. This group of 14 engineering students, including 3 girls, designed, constructed and launched rockets alongside 41 other teams in a national competition in Huntsville, Alabama.

I took a second to talk with Nick Greco, team captain, who’s finishing up his senior year of studying mechanical engineering at U of L.

Louisville stepped away with three awards – Best Website, designed by Conor Heine, Best New Team and Fifth Place in the overall rocket-launching competition.

While Greco’s explaining the requisites for this yearly competition, I can’t help but notice this is a year-long project. Maintaining their website, which you can find at, all year to collect and display data is an integral part of winning at the National level. According to Greco, “every nut and bolt that goes on a rocket and why it’s safe” must be logged and put on the website. Teams are also judged on data recorded, creativity of design, safety, achievement of task and the successfulness of the launch.

University of Louisville USLI team captain Nick Greco meets the president of the National Association of Rocketry.

Greco was sure to describe what he calls the most important part of USLI: educational outreach. He told me that NASA focuses on “making sure we prolong the love of rocketry and extend the things we’re learning to younger students.” NASA requires that these teams spend time with at least 100 middle school students in the area, including one Boy Scout troop – showing that they not only benefit the university, but the greater community of Louisville.

When I asked about the building of the rocket, which happens to be his specialty, Greco told me to “think much larger scale than October Sky” – their rockets tower to an impressive 11 ½ feet tall. Laughing at myself, I dared to ask Greco about the actual construction of a rocket – worried that my English major wouldn’t have prepped me for an engineer’s explanation.
They’re made of mostly common materials like fiberglass and plywood because “NASA loves when you keep it simple and efficient.” Greco notes that “the specialty of each project comes from products we buy at Lowes and transform into something useful.”

Along with bringing the title to their USLI team, Greco got the opportunity to meet, now former, President of the National Association for Rocketry this year.

The University of Louisville’s rocket is launched at the USLI tournament in Huntsville, Alabama.

Funny to think that all of this recognition stems from a competition that Greco “just found on the internet” after an aeronautical society at U of L flopped from a lack of interest. “(The J.B.) Speed School didn’t really have an aerospace outreach, but we definitely have the capability and people who love to do it.” And so gave way to the year-old team’s fifth placement in their first rocket competition. It’s “one of the few societies that brings together every field of engineering…we have computer, electrical, mechanical, industrial and chemical engineers on the team” and an incredible benefit to the University of Louisville.

When I inquired if they had given any thought to next year’s rocket, Greco boasted “this year, we’re gonna win it all. I refuse to take anything but first place.” Those who are interested should contact Nick Greco at [email protected]

[email protected]
Photos courtesy River Çity Rocketry

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