For Patrick Walton, space truly is the final frontier, and he’s determined to help explore it. As a junior, he started the astronautics section of BYU’s chapter of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, including a rocket competition that eventually became the BYU Rocketry Club. Using BYU’s computers, 3D printers, and workspaces, students developed rockets that could fly more than a mile into the sky.
“We had multiple faculty with real-life experience donate their time—mentoring students, reviewing rocket designs, and helping us get permission,” he says. “Over 50 students now compete every year. Last June, a rocket built by those first students took second place at an international competition, flying above 9,000 feet.”
But BYU Rocketry was just the beginning. Walton took a special projects class from David Long, who helped him write a proposal for NASA to build, test, and launch two satellites—a proposal NASA accepted.
“Some days I still reel in shock when I realize that as students, we’ve actually done it—we’ve built a spacecraft,” Walton says. “Over the last couple of years, more than 50 students got paid to design, test, and build small satellites that will actually fly in space.”