Cal Poly Pomona will receive $2.5 million to fuel its Liquid Rocket Lab and boost future STEM student recruitment as part of an Education Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL).
More than 200 Cal Poly Pomona students participate in the College of Engineering’s Liquid Rocket Lab, with the goal to be the first university team to build and launch a bi-propellant liquid fuel rocket to ascend 8.5 miles into space. The Bronco 1 project is led by undergraduate students who spend their weekends, evenings and school breaks to design, manufacture, test and launch a liquid fuel rocket.
“The leadership and project experiences I have gained from the Liquid Rocketry Lab have given me confidence during job interviews,” Eric Gonzalez (’19, aerospace engineering) said. “It’s the first big leadership role I’ve had. We’re the first wave of students who initially established the program, so it’s very personal to us. It’s who we are.”
The funds will support various functions of the lab, including maintenance and operations, materials, test launching and a dedicated liquid fuel lab enclosure.
Students gain experiences in designing and constructing all parts of the rocket, including a mobile rocket engine test stand, the engine and the rocket vehicle. They gain relevant career skills by analyzing data and information to improve parts and understanding how to safely construct an aerospace vehicle. An enclosure for the Liquid Rocket Lab will provide expanded workspace and allow for minor rocket test launches.
Students continue to apply their experience to internships and work at organizations including Northrop Grumman, Boeing, NASA and JPL.
“There’s no doubt that critical research performed by Cal Poly Pomona students in the coming years as a result of these funds will help shape space exploration for decades to come,” U.S. Representative Norma Torres (CA-35) said. “Rocket- and space-focused engineers are crucial for maintaining secure operations to the final frontier. This new partnership ensures Cal Poly Pomona has resources they need to deliver hands-on educational experience to cultivate the leading scientists and engineers of tomorrow.”
The educational partnership is a formal agreement between a defense laboratory and an educational institution to encourage and enhance study in scientific disciplines in education. The Secretary of Defense prioritizes educational institutions that serve women, minority groups and underrepresented students in engineering and science professions.
California representatives Torres, Grace Napolitano (CA-32) and Salud Carbajal (CA-24) secured $5 million to support Cal Poly Pomona and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, with the campuses splitting the amount evenly.
“Cal Poly Pomona’s Liquid Rocket Lab epitomizes our longstanding commitment to research that is both cutting-edge and relevant as well as our foundational commitment to learning by doing,” President Soraya M. Coley said. “By supporting this partnership, the Air Force Research Laboratory is fostering a cadre of diverse and gifted students who will surely go on to be the future leaders in aerospace technology. We’re very grateful to the AFRL and Congressmembers Torres, Napolitano and Carbajal for their ongoing confidence and support of Cal Poly Pomona and this unique program.”