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Three historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) are part of the first 32 university teams in the $1 million+ Base 11 Space Challenge.

To date, Fisk University, an HBCU in Nashville, Tennessee; Huston-Tillotson University, a black college in Austin, Texas, partnering with the University of Texas – Austin; and Morgan State University in Baltimore, Maryland have registered for the Base 11 Space Challenge.

The competition will award $1 million to the first student-led university team to design, build, and launch a liquid-propelled, single-stage rocket to an altitude of 100 kilometers, the edge of space, by December 30, 2021.

Additional prizes worth $150,000 are available along the way. Inaugural sponsors include Dassault Systèmes, Blue Origin, SpaceX and Firefly Aerospace.

Last fall, the teams attended a mandatory Base 11 Space Challenge Safety Training held in Long Beach, Calif., West Lafayette, Ind.; and Toronto. The training featured presentations from safety experts at NASA, Zucrow Labs, Pratt & Whitney, Boeing, Cal State Long Beach and the Friends of Amateur Rocketry.

In March, teams will see a safety demonstration and live static test fire of an engine at Firefly Aerospace outside Austin, TX.

“We are honored that Morgan State University was selected, and confident that it will further advance our efforts to increase diversity, while turning out workforce-ready talent in high-demand industries like aerospace,” said David Wilson, president of Morgan State University. “At Morgan, we encourage our students to be bold and to aim for the stars.”

Morgan State will house its rocket program in the Center for Built Environment and Infrastructure Studies (CBEIS) building, home of The School of Architecture and Planning and some of the university’s engineering programs. CBEIS is a gold-certified LEED green building with solar water heating panels and a bio-retention pond.

CBEIS is also the home to the only earthquake simulator on the east coast and a supersonic wind tunnel. Students studying in this facility have access to printing labs that contain 2D and 3D printers and a fabrication lab where students can use technologically advanced cutting tools.

“With this generous grant, we will bring together a team of faculty and collaborators to prepare our students for opportunities in the commercial aerospace industry. This is an area loaded with opportunities for innovation and creativity, and in need of a more diverse workforce,” said Dr. Willie E. May, vice president of research and economic development at Morgan State University.

NASA Astronaut Leland Melvin will be the official spokesperson of the Base 11 Space Challenge.

“We want to ensure that the next generation of space innovators is just as diverse as America,” Leland said. “I am excited to see this generation of students getting critical hands-on experience in rocket technology, and I encourage Morgan State’s students to seize this incredible opportunity to reach for the stars.”

Over 600 students are competing in the Base 11 Space Challenge. They represent 32 universities across the US and Canada.

“We are inspired by the enthusiasm with which students from across the US and Canada have embraced this audacious challenge,” said Landon Taylor, CEO of Base 11, the nonprofit parent company of the National Rocketry League, LLC, and the official sponsor of the competition. “Once again, Base 11 is breaking down silos between academia, industry, and philanthropy to create innovative workforce development programs.”

In March 2019, teams will submit their overall design for their rocket, as well as full program design, including how they will fund their project, recruit new talent to sustain the project as teammates graduate, and conduct outreach in the community to increase awareness of STEM opportunities.

The mission behind the Base 11 Space Challenge is to increase the numbers of women and underrepresented minorities in STEM while empowering the future workforce with the education and skill-training necessary for jobs in the aerospace and related industries.

To learn more about the Base 11 Space Challenge, visit www.base11spacechallenge.org.

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