GEORGE TOWN: Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) has qualified for the world’s largest intercollegiate rocket competition in the US but is short of funds to make it there in June.
USM’s Wau Rocketry team, which had set a target of RM190,000 for its trip to New Mexico, is short of RM70,000.
The 12-member team was one of 151 which qualified to compete in the 2022 Spaceport America Cup. It is the first Malaysian team to qualify for the competition.
Led by third-year aerospace engineering student Vanmitha Athimoolam, 22, the group will launch the “Hebat” rocket, which has been under development since last year.
The rocket must reach 3,000m and be recovered safely on a parachute to win the competition. Besides that, the team will have to deploy a nanosatellite at 275m and ensure it lands on its own using a quadcopter.
The Spaceport Cup, the world’s largest intercollegiate rocket engineering competition, doubles up as an academic conference. More than 1,700 people are expected to gather from around the world for the event.
“Building a rocket is not easy. It has to be perfect. Our team has put a lot of work into it. As a result, our rockets have been strong and did well in data transmission tests. We are going to win,” Vanmitha, from Klang, told FMT.
She said she heard about the competition at a workshop hosted by a rocket scientist two years ago.
“Following that talk, I thought we should build Malaysia’s first rocket. I felt we had a lot of talent in USM and that we could do well. I want to drive more people to the aerospace industry,” the aspiring astronaut said.
She assembled a team which included students from aerospace, mechanical and chemical engineering fields.
“The team is split into subsystem teams taking care of structure, propulsion, recovery, payload and safety, and the tasks were assigned according to their interest.
“By joining the competition, we apply the knowledge we have in rocketry, and we want to set a benchmark for Malaysian students. We want them to go after their passion and dreams,” she said.
The team has raised RM120,200 so far – RM35,000 from USM, RM50,000 from OMS Foundation, RM22,000 from a two-month online fundraiser and RM13,200 from the higher education ministry.
Malaysia Airlines has sponsored five return tickets from Penang to El Paso International Airport, Texas (about an hour from the venue), and has offered other tickets at a 40% discount.
The other members of the Wau Rocketry team are Nuha Ahmad Rizal, Fitri Zailan, Nurin Salihah Mas Johan, Jeeness Arumugom, Nurin Izzati Umar, Hariz Izzudin A Rahim, Amirul Alif Zakria, Rishee Kumar, Christy Wee Xin Yee, Kavilan Ramoo and Yap Wei Juin.
They will be accompanied by advisers Norilmi Amilia Ismail and Chang Wei Shyang, and mentored by Julian Chee and Ahmad Tamimi Ahmad Termizi.
They will be in the US for 11 days from June 16.
Those who want to help may donate to USM’s Bank Islam account 08022010065458, with a recipient reference to “WAU ROCKETRY USM” and proof of transfer emailed to [email protected].