IREC Year 2
Two years in a row, I worked as part of a high school team that designed, and engineered payloads for the Eastern Washington University rocket entry into the Intercollegiate Rocket Engineering Competition (IREC). IREC is an annual high power rocket competition between universities. It is split into two flight categories the 10,000ft and the 25,000 ft. The first year competing in the 10,000 ft category we built a collapsible fixed-wing aircraft that would eject at apogee from the rocket and fly via first-person view. This drone had a maximum wingspan of roughly 30 inches and folded down to just 5 inches to fit into the payload bay. This was EWU’s first competing in IREC and they achieved 3’rd place.
After the first year, we learned that the temperatures in Utah could be dramatic. Temperatures exceeding 116 degrees outside meant even higher temperatures inside what was a black rocket. To mitigate this problem the second year I worked on creating the smallest possible cooling solution for our 1watt FPV system. We needed this because the system would overheat almost immediately if it didn’t have constant airflow. In the end, the AC system ended up being two compressed air cans mounted together with a linear string actuator to activate the triggers. There was also a temperature sensor on board and when it detected a temperature over the allowable limit it would activate the two cans both of which had small tubes that ducted directly to the hottest running components.
The main payload for this flight was actually a deployable shuttlecock that collected solar data while recording video footage. This, like our drone, would expand once ejected. To create the shuttlecock shape we used carbon fiber spars that were arched in a recurve fashion that was then sewn into a ripstop body. Flexible solar panels were mounted on the inside of the shuttlecock and their voltage output was monitored by a microcontroller on board. The hope was to then compare that voltage output at different stages of decent to see how the panels reacted at altitude. We also included an FPV transmitter attached to a GoPro to give us a live feed of its decent. Unfortunately, during the final launch, one of the fins was damaged. This occurred several hundred feet off the launch pad. It allowed the rocket to go into a spin at speed, the air resistance then tore the rocket completely apart including the payload.
This was still a wonderful experience and was happy to have built something for such an amazing event. I would have happily jumped at the opportunity of participating the following year. I learned that sometimes no matter how much effort and money into something it just doesn’t always works out.