University of Minnesota students are finalists in Bayer Big Ten Alka-Rocket Challenge

Winners will receive $25,000 and GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS title

MINNEAPOLIS / ST. PAUL (11/02/2017) — Members of the Rocket Team at the University of Minnesota will head to the Houston Space Center in Texas on Nov. 8 to compete as one of three finalists in the Bayer Big Ten Alka-Rocket Challenge.

The team with the highest successful launch will receive $25,000, a GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS title, and a halftime recognition at December’s Big Ten championship football game.

Sponsored by Bayer and the Big Ten Conference, the competition pitted students from all 14 Big Ten universities against each other, each team submitting a video entry showcasing the design and launch of its alka-rocket.

Kevin Schrader, Jeffrey Guevara, Brody Hultman, Machlen Polfliet, and Andrew Van Gerpen are the five University of Minnesota students representing the Rocket Team in Houston.

“This competition gives us a chance to show off our engineering skills on the national stage,” Rocket Team lead Kevin Schrader said. “Typically, the rockets we build fly under the radar...This gave us a chance to get into a good competition, compete against other schools in the Big Ten, and represent our school.”

A staple of backyard science projects, alka-rockets are fueled by a chemical reaction of Alka-Seltzer effervescent tablets and water. Because this generates little force, Schrader said, the team had to build their rocket light and small.

The Rocket Team’s goal was to maximize the pressure and force behind the launch of their 15-inch-tall rocket, allowing the Alka-Seltzer reaction to propel the rocket as high as possible. The students used a combination of fiberglass and 3-D printed materials to minimize weight and maximize material strength.

“I think that we’ve made the best possible rocket for this scenario,” Schrader said. “We built it light, we built it strong, and we optimized it to win.”

The team hopes to reach an altitude of 1,500 feet at the competition. However, there are many challenges to overcome. After all, this really is rocket science.

“We have a pretty good design,” Rocket Team member Jeffrey Guevara said. “I think that having a low mass allows us to get as high as possible. We’re hoping that if we can keep everything together, and everything goes correctly, we’ll hit that.”

Through this challenge, Bayer and the Big Ten aim to increase awareness about the country’s need for more scientists, engineers and innovators. As foundations of the modern world, these fields foster the creativity, economic competitiveness and national security necessary to succeed in the next century.

“Bayer created the Alka-Rocket Challenge to convey the importance of science literacy and STEM education in a light-hearted and engaging way,” said Ray Kerins, Senior Vice President of Corporate Affairs for Bayer. “Our partnership with the Big Ten universities, which dominate both athletics and the education of our future scientists and engineers, has been key to making the challenge such a blast.”

The Rocket Team at the University of Minnesota will lift off against fellow Big Ten competitors from Northwestern University and Rutgers University.

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