At Aurora Flight Sciences, a Boeing Company, employees across the country are committed to giving back to local communities and fostering the next generation of aerospace professionals. One way Aurora employees support this vision is by providing their time and expertise to help rocketry teams excel in competition while learning valuable skills and having fun.
At Aurora’s Mississippi and West Virginia facilities, employees volunteer their time to assist collegiate rocketry teams in their mission to design, build, and fly competition rockets for the Spaceport America Cup. Held annually in Sierra Count, New Mexico, this competition features student-designed rockets that fly to altitudes of 10,000 or 30,000 feet.
Every year, Aurora employees volunteer their time to support various teams and teach students about the processes and equipment used in composite manufacturing. These processes include material handling, layup, vacuum bagging, basic composite skills, and more. The students are also given the opportunity to visit Aurora’s manufacturing facilities and see how these processes translate to real world application.
In Mississippi, engineer Cody Hardin helps to lead these efforts alongside a team of Aurora engineers and technicians.
“We teach the same things that we do every day at work,” said Cody. “Teams use the same processes to build student design products, so any student working on these teams is learning the same things that entry level manufacturing engineers are doing on the job. Not only does this help with the goals for their rocketry teams, but they can leverage this experience on their resumes and into their careers.”
The teams build new rockets every year based on various parameters. This year, employees at Aurora’s Mississippi facility supported Mississippi State’s rocketry team, the Space Cowboys, with the build of their two-stage competition rocket named Gemini. Employees held a workshop for the team where they reviewed safety procedures and equipment, then the team was able to use various equipment to assist with manufacturing, curing, and painting their rocket.
In West Virginia, manufacturing engineering intern Paislee Adlington saw an opportunity to use what she was learning as an Aurora intern to help support her rocketry team at West Virginia University. Paislee spearheaded the effort to paint the team’s 2022 competition rocket, Appalachian Sunset. After the team completed the rocket’s external structure, Paislee worked with various Aurora employees to apply putty to smooth the fin’s surface, sand and clean the rocket, and manage the painting process. The team went on to place first in the 30k Student Research and Design Solids Category, second in the Space Dynamics Laboratory Payload Challenge, and third overall.
“Our Aurora West Virginia team has supported the WVU rocketry team for years,” said Wesley Hardin, senior production engineering manager. “We’re excited to have this opportunity not only to support local students but to help nurture their passion for the industry and promote the importance of STEM education. Through the design and build process, these students learn the fundamentals of manufacturing engineering by using real-world processes and production equipment. This experience is invaluable to their education, career, and future employers, and we’re proud to be a part of it.”
At Aurora’s Virginia facility, employees re-established a long-standing tradition of hosting a group of finalists for The American Rocketry Challenge (TARC). The American Rocketry Challenge gives middle and high school students the opportunity to design, build and launch model rockets, with nearly 5,000 students nationwide competing each year. The day prior to the national finals event in May, Aurora welcomed 89 students from all over the United States to tour its aircraft hangars and speak with engineers about their careers and the future of aerospace.
“TARC has been, and continues to be, a great opportunity for Aurora employees to reach out to potential engineers and interact with them in an environment that they are passionate about,” said Christopher Gee, aerostructures design group manager. “It provides volunteers and students with unique one-on-one time that can positively impact that student’s life well beyond their initial Aurora visit.”
Throughout the year, Aurora supports various activities in STEM education such as rocket camps, site tours, and community college coursework. These programs are critical to inspiring and shaping future engineers and industry professionals.
“I’m proud to work for a company that prides itself on giving back to the community through STEM education and participation in activities like rocketry programs,” said Cody. “These things are important to our employees, and it’s something that the next generation of engineers are looking for in the companies they join.”
Interested in joining the Aurora team? Visit our careers page to search for open positions and see what it’s like to work at Aurora.