Fluid Impulse, one of the UTDesign Startup Challenge team winners, visited Exos Aerospace in Greenville, Texas, on Dec. 19, to consult with their rocketry experts. Exos Aerospace team members warmly welcomed not only the Fluid Impulse team, but also five students and a teacher from Plano ISD Academy High School.
John Quinn, Exos Aerospace chief operating officer, inspired the students by calling them to think of big ideas and to not be afraid to fail early and often in their engineering design work. He then showed a video of their launch on Oct. 26, during which the rocket malfunctioned in flight and crash landed. The SARGE rocket previously had three successful flights, climbing more than 20 miles into space at over 3,000 mph and returned safely within 1,000 feet of its launch site. A year ago, Exos Aerospace won a $120 million contract to launch Italian satellites into Earth orbit. They project that they will attain orbital launch capability in about three years.
The Fluid Impulse UT Dallas team, winners of the UTDesign Startup Challenge (similar to “Shark Tank”), presented the critical design review (CDR) for its rocket engine design. The expectation was that this would be about a 30-minute presentation and question session. Boy, was the expectation wrong! The students presented 52 PowerPoint slides, which were extremely complex and reflected many hours of previous engineering design and simulation work. The audience was blown away by the depth of engineering analysis and detail that were contained in the slides and explained by the team.
Three hours later (yes, that is correct), and after hundreds of suggestions and rocket launch “war stories” from the Exos Aerospace professionals, Fluid Impulse concluded its CDR. Were they done? Not at all! The team stayed for one more hour, with students from both UT Dallas and Academy High School deep in conversations and questions with the Exos Aerospace team. The teams practically had to be pried away from each other to get them to leave, or they would still be there!
Fluid Impulse won $5,000 of seed money and the services of a UTDesign Capstone team, and will “launch” its Capstone team in May.
Fluid Impulse team members who visited Exos Aerospace included Thomas Ledford, Eddie Bates, Samantha Aceves, Jennifer Kerner and Chris Vallone. One of the Fluid Impulse students, Eddie Bates, works remotely one day per week for SpaceX. Rohit Gattarmaraju and Bryson Rector, president and vice president of the UT Dallas chapter of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, also attended.
Plano ISD Academy High School students who attended included Asad Daruwala, Safin Rashid, Michael McConnell, Lucas Brewer and Al Hernandez, accompanied by teacher Eddie Hong. Don Proeschel, director of corporate relations in the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science, visited Exos Aerospace in 2018 and organized the trip.