Carthage hosts 14th annual high-power rocket competition
23 rockets took to the sky during Carthage’s 14th annual First Nations Launch on April 28-29.
The NASA-sponsored program offers tribal colleges and student members of the American Indian Science and Engineering Society the opportunity to participate in high-powered rocketry with national leaders in aerospace engineering.
First Nations Launch is the largest high-powered rocket competition in the country for Native American college students, designed as a ‘first step’ experience for students interested in rocketry, engineering, and space science.
Carthage students Iris Toney ’25 (Chocktaw, team lead), Alexander Kovalenko ’25, Kevin Totts ’25 and Nico Kilbourne ’25, along with faculty advisor Julie Dahlstrom, participated in this year’s Gateway Challenge. Teams designed and constructed a dual-deploy high-power rocket from a list of possible kit combinations.
Other competitions included the Moon Challenge, in which teams design, test, and fabricate some structural design components of a lightweight rocket, and the Mars Engineering Challenge, in which teams create the entire rocket from raw materials.
All the competitors, a total of 21 teams from 11 states and one Canadian province, converged for a weekend of workshops and presentations at Carthage. The rocket showcase took place at the Richard Bong State Recreation Area in Kansasville, Wisconsin.
Student teams from as far afield as the University Of Hawai’i at Mānoa and MIT showcased their competition rockets and presented their designs to NASA representatives and industry experts. Judges included James Wood from Kennedy Space Center, Joseph Connolly from the Glenn Research Center, Orson John from the Goddard Space Flight Center, and Aaron Yazzie and Lauren Denson from the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
Alumni of the First Nations Launch program, who are now employed at companies such as Blue Origin, the Boeing Company, and Raytheon Technologies, also joined the event as industry experts.
The competition culminated with a banquet featuring keynote speaker Captain Haida StarEagle (U.S. Space Force) and award presentations.
Learn more about the Wisconsin Space Grant Consortium