Navajo Technical College lands NASA rocket grant to support minority innovation

CROWNPOINT, N.M. - NASA's Minority Innovation Challenges Institute (MICI) recently awarded Navajo Technical College a $4,000 grant to compete in the 2012 NASA University Student Launch Initiative, which challenges university-level students to design, build and launch a reusable rocket.

The funds will go to good use after Navajo Technical College's student team of "Cloud 9" placed second in the Tribal College portion of the Third Annual First Nations Rocket Competition in early May after launching a rocket almost 6,000 feet into the air.

"For us as a college, it's important to compete with other universities to show our skills and the potential we have," said NTC computer aided drafting instructor, Gregory Dodge. "We are a diverse group and we get each department's input, not from the teachers, but from the student's perspective."

Whereas NTC only had to compete against Tribal Colleges at the First Nations Rocket competition, during the University Launch Initiative they will be competing against several minority universities.

"We're going to get to compete against engineering students from across the nation so it will really show our students what they're capable of doing," exclaimed Dodge. "It really lets students know they can do anything against bigger colleges and succeed. We don't have to be known just as a Tribal College."

The funds obtained from the grant will be used to purchase equipment and parts associated with building a rocket, and to provide student travel to and from the competition in Huntsville, AL. The money will also be used to establish a one-credit course around the project for students to earn college credit.

Navajo Tech was selected for the grant money based on a proposal that clearly outlined an implementation plan, the expected impact of the project on the school and community, and the past performance of a faculty member managing a similar project.

"I'm excited to try something new," explained "Cloud 9" team member and Energy Systems student Eric Begody of Tuba City, AZ. "At the other competition we saw a lot of other people's rockets and it opened up a lot of ideas to us. We'll see how it goes."

For more information Gregory Dodge at (505) 786-4196.

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