The Purdue chapter of Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (SEDS) was founded on December 7, 1994 (exactly 1 year before Galileo was scheduled to arrive at Jupiter.) and has since grown to its current size of 40 active members. Through biweekly meetings as well as various events, Purdue SEDS is an active and well-recognized organization in the larger Aerospace community at Purdue. As a chapter, Purdue SEDS focuses on three primary missions:
- Conduct outreach events that raise awareness of the importance and value of space in our everyday lives and promote students of all ages to pursue careers in the space industry
- Develop members’ technical experience through work on hands-on projects such as the High Altitude Balloon, High-Powered Model Rockets, and Satellite Competition
- Host social events such as movie nights and rocket launch BBQs throughout the year to promote interaction between members and to foster a community of space-enthusiasts
While Purdue SEDS typically consists mostly of Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering students, the chapter works to encourage students from other majors, including from colleges other than Engineering, to get involved in SEDS and the various events hosted by the chapter.
In the past academic year, Purdue SEDS has participated in several community outreach events in an effort to share its passion for space with young people. Whether hosting an event on-campus or partnering with our local elementary school, Purdue SEDS has sought to teach and inspire its community’s youth through lessons in rocketry, astronomy, and the importance of space.
College Mentors for Kids
At this on-campus event, ours SEDS chapter worked alongside several other Purdue organizations to host local middle school students, showing them the many different fields they can study in the future. Each 5th to 6th grade student was paired with a college mentor, who led them through activities related to Purdue’s offered fields of study. Our SEDS chapter represented the field of Aerospace Engineering on two separate occasions, teaching students more about both conventional and contemporary space travel with a paper rocket building activity. We also taught students more about the planets of our own solar system.
Purdue IDEAS Day
IDEAS is a day for elementary students to participate in several activities around campus, where they can learn about the challenges and the joys of engineering. SEDS represented Aerospace Engineering once again, this time with a balloon rocket activity that taught students about Newton’s laws of motion, the forces of flight, and the purpose/importance of a rocket’s payload. Our SEDS chapter helped students to build rockets made of blown-up balloons, Popsicle sticks, and Styrofoam balls, which had to be properly weighted and balanced before they were released. The rockets ran along a vertical string into “space,” where they delivered resupply materials to a stranded astronaut!
Edgelea STEM Night
Our most recent event was hosted at Edgelea Elementary School, a local school that holds an annual STEM showcase for its students and their families. Our chapter prepared an activity called “The Toilet Paper Solar System”, which described the relative distances of planets to our sun. After rolling out a long roll of toilet paper (about 50 sheets), SEDS members helped students to plot the correct locations of our planets. In the end, students were able to see the truly immense scale of our solar system (with each small sheet of toilet paper representing 72 million miles)!
Purdue SEDS Members and an Edgelea student show off their solar system model
Passing on our knowledge and passion for space has been an incredible privilege for Purdue SEDS. Community outreach has been among our highest priorities, as the young minds that we inspire today will someday become the SEDS members that shape the future of space exploration.
High Altitude Balloon
In conjunction with our department’s AIAA chapter, our SEDS chapter decided to be ambitious this year and have four high-altitude balloon teams. All four have different goals. One is seeking to get a great picture of the earth, one will be performing several unique scientific experiments within its payload box, one will be employing a unique design to achieve a record-high altitude, and another will be featuring a self-manufactured balloon. We will be launching these four balloons over the next two weeks and look forward to achieving success in the Global Space Balloon Challenge.
SEDS has always had a tradition with rockets. We have weekend rocket builds for high power certifications through the Tripoli Rocketry Association. We have about 30 students who are building their own rockets and launch at regional meets monthly. We also take these skills to compete in competitions. Our current team is building a rocket with a ten pound scientific payload to ten thousand feet to compete in the Experimental Sounding Rocket Association’s International Rocket Engineering Competition this June in Salt Lake City, Utah.
A student-built rocket mid-lift-off
Satellite Competition Team
Recently, Purdue SEDS formed a team of 8 students to compete in the SSPI/SEDS Satellite Competition, themed Solving the Space Solar Power Puzzle (say that 5 times fast). So far, the team has mostly been conducting initial research, addressing topics such as engineering and technology requirements, time-frames and costs, and regulatory and political issues associated with implementation.
Aside from research, the team also had their first meeting recently with their mentor, Dr. Denis Curtin, CEO of XTAR. At the meeting, the team had a chance to discuss plans of approach, team subdivision, and initial ideas. The team is looking forward to learning more about the intriguing world of space-based energy and working with their esteemed mentor.
University Student Rocketry Competition
The USRC team has been moving along and just recently submitted their design proposal for review in mid March . The team is working on creating electronics sleds, working on motor retention systems, and identifying vendors for the raw materials. They are planning on having their electronics sleds and the majority of their materials purchased by May.
To bring our organization together, we host a variety of social events. This semester we held our first stargazing night where we viewed the Moon, Mars, and the spectacular transit of Jupiter. We brought several telescopes and even a bonfire and s’mores to keep us warm. The chapter also hosts its annual Rocket Launch BBQ at a local park, when students can socialize, enjoy some food, and – of course – launch rockets.
Other social events Purdue SEDS offers include regular movie nights and Kerbal Space Program nights. As an organization devoted to space exploration, it is no surprise that members love play KSP, where one can design and launch rockets all over the solar system and we often gather to watch each other launch our creations. Movie nights are generally space related flicks that offer another chance to hang out as an organization.
Group shot from the stargazing event – taken at night!
In addition to all of these goings-on, Purdue SEDS occasionally hosts speakers, from both the aerospace industry and the academic community. For its latest speaker, Purdue hosted Dr. Michael Griffin, the 11th Administrator of NASA on Thursday, April 7th as part of Purdue’s Engineering-Week events.
Through all of these activities and more, Purdue SEDS strives to bring together a diverse and passionate group of students from across the University to form a community around the common interest of space and space exploration.