by Kiara Bean, Correspondent
There are 100+ clubs on the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University – Prescott campus. Under normal circumstances, a lot of students would enjoy being members of the various clubs. However, due to COVID-19 restrictions, only some clubs are able to continue functioning. Unfortunately, many of them had to pause their club activities. Rocket Development Lab (RDL) is one of those fortunate clubs that is still able to maintain its regular meetings and engage its members, albeit under new conditions.
Priyanshu Kumar, an Aerospace Engineering – Astronautics major, is a member of RDL, which “…provide[s] students with knowledge about rocketry by giving research opportunities as well as space for the application of their knowledge. The RDL has various current projects such as model rocketry, development of solid and liquid rocket engines, and research into ablatives.” He is currently a member of the Ablatives Team (Group 2) of RDL. “The objective of Group 2 is to find additives that we can add to a mixture of epoxy and hardener that will absorb heat and therefore help reduce the rate at which a rocket chamber deteriorates,” said Kumar.
Last year, Kumar was a part of the Model Rocketry group, which consisted of about six people who met in AXFAB or the library. This year, his Ablatives team has about ten people. They meet in the RDL room in AXFAB, but unfortunately, they cannot all meet in person, since the room is limited to nine people; there is always a computer running a zoom meeting, and some members have to connect remotely. Kumar noted, that “the main hardship the club had to overcome was to accommodate its large club membership. Since there are so many diverse projects in the RDL, the club had to find a way to make sure all the members were able to use the club space. I believe that they implemented a stricter schedule to meet in the RDL and the use of Zoom meetings to achieve this goal.” Kumar is thankful that his team lead is very proactive in reserving time slots in the lab, so the team can continue working on their project. He mentioned one disappointment: “there would also be a lot of spectators for when rocket testing was being done, but that is no longer the case as large groups of people cannot get together anymore.”
Despite the COVID-19 restrictions, the membership of RDL has not been affected. Kumar said, “I believe that membership was not drastically impacted as the club resorted to other means such as Zoom calls or meeting in other locations to make sure groups could still carry out their projects. I believe that the size of my ablatives group stayed the same across last year and this year (about 10).”
Kumar is glad that his club did not have to pause its activity: “I personally feel that the club is doing a great job in achieving its goals while ensuring COVID safety guidelines are met…The club still has a future especially since there are so many people that are dedicated to ongoing projects. There are many people that spend tens of hours working on club stuff.”