Cal Poly Space Systems launched "Wild Thing," a rocket with three motors, on Saturday. Courtesy Photo.

The Wild Thing rocket team put 30 hours into designing and building the Cal Poly Space Systems’ latest rocket, the 4-foot tall “Wild Thing,” which took three seconds to reach 3,025 feet into the sky over the California desert.

Aerospace engineering sophomore and thepresident of Cal Poly Space Systems, Joshua Herrmann, said it is the first time they have launched a rocket with three motors.  The club spent a lot of time on the rocket, Herrmann said.

“What was going through my head was, ‘please don’t blow up,’” he said.

Aerospace engineering professor Dianne DeTurris is the academic adviser for the club and attended the launch. Years ago, someone else tried to launch a rocket with three motors that went off at different times. The rocket went directly over everyone’s heads and across the field to the other side, she said.

“I thought of how to get out of the way if the rocket was coming right at me,” DeTurris said. “I looked behind me to see if there was an escape route.”

Even failure becomes a chance to learn for Cal Poly Space Systems, DeTurris said.

“It is learn by doing,” she said. “And learn by failing.”

Fail early and fail often, DeTurris said. The club has developed a positive attitude toward failure which members call “limited success.”

“It is not about the sad, it is about the thrill of succeeding after having made every mistake possible,” DeTurris said.

An experiment may sound good and make sense, but it is not always foolproof, DeTurris said. Sometimes there are failures, and the club improves from them.

Aerospace engineering junior Aliki Loper-Leddy is a member of the club. Once, the engine of a rocket shot up the body tube and then through the nose of the rocket, but the rocket stayed in place, Loper-Leddy said.

Herrmann said he has been at the launch site and has seen other rockets land on top of the tents where spectators were sitting. He has also seen them explode on the launch pad and fall straight down on the hood of a truck after its motor burned out.

Luckily, Wild Thing’s three motors all fired at the exact same time and the rocket went straight up, DeTurris said. It worked even better than the club could have imagined.

“What I didn’t expect was going to happen was them all going off at exactly the same instant because that is very hard to do,” DeTurris said.

There were three teams to construct each of the three motors and even though the motors weren’t built identically, they still fired at the same time, DeTurris said.

“It is even more amazing when you consider that the motors weren’t put together by the same people,” DeTurris said.

The club not only teaches its members how to build and launch rockets, but it gives them hands-on experience and teaches them how to work together as a group, DeTurris said.

“The members get the chance to succeed individually as well as on a group level,” DeTurris said.

Club members attending the launch had teams to design and launch their “Dollar Store Rockets.” The members used Halloween decorations such as an orange straw with a plastic skeleton on top, Herrmann said, along with a paper towel roll and duct tape to construct the rockets.

This activity helps new members get experience with constructing and launching rockets, DeTurris said.

“The idea is to get the new people to see what it’s like,” she said.

When the club launched the rockets, most of them tumbled in the air instead of going straight up, Herrmann said. A different team won a night-light as a prize for the best “Dollar Store Rocket.”

The launch was in a field near Fresno, where the club spent Saturday night camping.

After the flight, Wild Thing was found in fairly good shape, DeTurris said.

Nothing was broken; the club could fly it again if it wanted to, Herrmann said.

The club saves all the rockets it launches so it can launch them again in the future.

“We have such a good time launching each one and we want to experience that again,” Herrmann said.

Sometimes it is difficult to track the rockets, Loper-Leddy said. Club members drive after them, following them sometimes through the night and some rockets have never been found, she said.

The members shouldn’t get attached to their rocket, DeTurris said. If they do, they won’t be able to let it go for fear of it being damaged or lost.

“Rule number one: don’t ever get married to your rocket,” DeTurris said. “If you do, you will never launch it.”

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