BYU students create Alka-Seltzer rocket for engineering competition

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The BYU Alka-Seltzer Rocket team stands together for a photo. (Zach Lawless)

The BYU Rocketry Club has created a rocket that can be launched with Alka-Seltzer tablets. The club has been announced as one of five finalists in a competition sponsored by Bayer.

The BYU team is lead by Zach Lawless, a mechanical engineering student. Lawless and his team built a rocket that Lawless refers to as a “dart.” They built the rocket out of materials like carbon fiber and will launch it with Alka-Seltzer tablets, per the rules of the competition. 

The competition allowed submissions from all four-year, accredited universities. Each team created a rocket and a video about the rocket and the engineering process. A panel of judges, which included representatives from NASA and astronaut Mae Jemison, selected four finalists. A fifth finalist was chosen based on social media likes. 

The finalists will travel to the Kennedy Space Center, where they will launch their rockets. The finalists will receive scholarship money from the Bayer corporation. According to Bayer employee Carolyn Nagle, there were about a dozen entries this year.

Lawless said he has a good feeling about the competition, as BYU were the champions last year.

Raymond Kerins, the senior vice president of corporate affairs at Bayer, said that this competition is inspired by a need in the science and math workforce. Kerins said that Bayer often loses potential employees to big tech companies and finds that most students lose interest in the sciences at an early age.

To combat this, Bayer employees take science into classrooms across the U.S. One of the experiments they often perform is a mini version of the Alka-Seltzer rocket. After the success of the experiment, Bayer decided to sponsor a collegiate competition that would allow students to build a larger version of the rockets.

According to Kerins, the collegiate students often break world records at the competition. The BYU team set a world record last year when its Alka-Seltzer rocket soared 883 feet into the air, more than doubling the record set the previous year.

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