Sun Devil Alka Rocketeers - a student organization started by Barrett Honors College student - competing in 2019 Bayer Alka-Rocket Challenge

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November 6, 2019
ASU Sun Devil Alka Rocketeers

Members of the Sun Devil Alka Rocketeers after a successful test launch at Esteban Park in Tempe. Left to right, Jacob Abraham, Jared Lee-Kin, Rushal Butala, Joshua Pardhe, Joriel Cura, and Gray Harris.


Practically everyone knows that Alka Seltzer tablets mixed with water are a go-to, bubbly, effervescent remedy for indigestion. 

But did you know that a mixture of Alka Seltzer tablets and water in an enclosed cylinder can produce enough pressure to launch a rocket?

A group of Arizona State University Students - calling themselves the Sun Devil Alka Rocketeers (SDAR) - knows this and is using their skills in engineering, design, and yes, the benefits of Alka Seltzer, to compete in the national 2019 Bayer Alka-Rocket Challenge. The competition pits teams from four-year accredited universities throughout the country against each other to see who can design, build, and launch a rocket powered by Alka Seltzer tablets and water the highest.

Joshua Pardhe, a Barrett Honors College sophomore and president of the Alka Rocketeers, founded the organization last year with three members – all engineering majors - and pushed for official student organization designation and funding through the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at ASU. The Alka Rocketeers is now an official student organization within the Fulton Schools and has 18 members with a mix of majors, including engineering, business, and liberal arts. Most members are Barrett Honors College students.

Last year, the Alka Rocketeers was the first-ever team from ASU to compete in the Bayer Alka-Rocket Challenge. Their rocket was made out of PVC piping, a pressure chamber, a removable launch tube, and a 3-D printed rocket with an altimeter inside.

This year, the group has perfected its design and built a launcher out of pressure-rated PVC piping and brass valves and a rocket that was custom-designed out of ABS plastic and 3D printed at the Fulton Computing, Informatics, and Decision Systems Engineering (CIDSE) Print Lab. They hope to launch their rocket at least 200 feet for the Alka-Rocket Challenge. In testing the rocket reached 154 feet.

Participants in the Alka-Rocket Challenge go through two rounds of competition that run concurrently. One round requires participants to submit a video and a document explaining how they built their Alka-Rocket, any challenges they faced and how they responded, and showing their rocket in action. A professional panel of judges chooses four finalists, each one representing a census region of the United States. Watch the Sun Devil Alka Rocketeers’ video.

The other round of competition involves a public voting period where a photo of each participating team is posted on Facebook and each “like” on the photo counts as a vote for that team. The team with the most “likes” will become the fifth finalist. Like the Sun Devil Alka Rocketeers’ team photo on Facebook. The public voting period started November 4 and ends November 15.

The five finalist teams, which will be announced November 18, will win a trip for four team members to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida to compete with other teams to see whose rocket can fly highest.

The official competition launch will take place December 12. The team that breaks the existing highest-flying Alka-Rocket record wins a Guinness World Record™ title and $5,000. The team that launches its rocket the highest and recovers it wins $25,000. The team that achieves both feats wins $30,000.

The Alka Rocketeers are hosting several events to promote their project and ask for votes:

Rocketpalooza, ASU’s first-ever rocketry expo with music, food, and games, will be held 6-8 p.m., November 8, at the Sun Devil Fitness Center on the ASU Tempe campus.

Rocketpalooza will feature volleyball and dodgeball tournaments, with the winning teams entered into a raffle for an Airpod giveaway. Students interested in participating can register for the volleyball tournament online or check in at the event and be assigned to a team. The Alka Rocketeers’ rocket will be on displayed and launched several times throughout the event. Alka Rocketeers will be available to share information about their organization and how others can join the group.

Puppies and Propulsion, an event where students can pet puppies and learn about SDAR and its rocket, will be 2-4 p.m., November 12 in Palm Court, located at the main entrance of Barrett Honors College’s Tempe complex.

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