Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

The USF Society of Aeronautics and Rocketry has successful liftoff

PLANT CITY — With a low hiss and a high scream, the rocket — a 12-foot, forest-green projectile resembling a gigantic crayon — hovered for a second above the ground upon a plume of white smoke.

Then, as it shot straight into a cloudy sky, the young men and women anxiously watching screamed and leapt themselves, as though unconsciously mimicking their creation's triumphant upward path.

"Come back to us, baby," cried out Taylor Morris, a 24-year-old electrical engineering major at the University of South Florida.

"All that hard work and effort you put into it, and for it to work out perfectly — it's impossible to put into words," said Jamie Waters, 18, a freshman at USF majoring in chemical engineering.

Both were part of the team that constructed Bullistic I, the slender, solid-fuel rocket — named after the school's mascot — that shot skyward above a cattle ranch in Plant City on Saturday.

The rocket launch was the culmination of work by the Society of Aeronautics and Rocketry (SOAR) a USF student club that has devoted itself to amateur (though by no means unimpressive) rocket science. SOAR joined a band of other rocketeers at the Varn Ranch, the site of the monthly meeting of the Tripoli Tampa Rocketry Association.

Amid this loose assembly of Floridian rocket hobbyists, the USF students stood out in their nervous energy. "It is the first rocket of this size I've seen go off," said Matt Chrzanowski, 24, the USF chemistry graduate student who heads SOAR. "I'm very excited, anxious and nervous, all at the same time."

SOAR's first launch was a total success. On its descending path above the cattle ranch's oaks, palms and muddy wallows, it split in two and deployed a parachute. From beginning to end, the journey from earth to sky and back again took only a few minutes, but represented the concentrated exercise of student know-how in disciplines including chemistry, engineering and math.

One figure amid the eager student horde showed serenity: Manoug Manougian, a USF mathematics professor and former rocket scientist who advises the club on its projects.

"There's a lot of excitement in putting something like a rocket together in view of the fact that it involves so many various disciplines to make that happen," said Manougian, a bespectacled, soft-spoken man with silver hair.

An Armenian born in Jerusalem, Manougian said his own interest in rockets was inspired by his childhood reading of From the Earth to the Moon, the 1865 novel by Jules Verne.

In that book, Manougian noted wryly, the French novelist — famous for his fictional foresight of such inventions as the submarine — chose a then-unlikely spot for the launch of his protagonists' rocket vessel: Tampa, Fla.

Peter Jamison can be reached at or (813) 226-3337. Follow him on Twitter @petejamison.

The USF Society of Aeronautics and Rocketry has successful liftoff 12/21/13 [Last modified: Sunday, December 22, 2013 12:41pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Estuary wins pier design contest for the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway extension

    Real Estate

    TAMPA — And the winner is… Estuary.

    Voters overwhelmingly supported a pier design called Estuary for the $200-million extension of the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway in Tampa.
[Courtesy of AECOM]
  2. What to watch and listen to this week: Halloween offerings, best spooky podcasts


    Halloween is all about scary stories. The holiday itself is based on a compilation of creepy tales from history going back thousands of years.

    The Halloween kids classic The Nightmare Before Christmas airs this week on Freeform.
  3. Fennelly: Would you take Jameis Winston over Cam Newton?


    Factoring out futures, it wouldn't be a short list if I picked NFL quarterbacks I'd take right now over Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston.

    Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston (3) calls a play during the first half of Sunday's game. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]
  4. Man faces charge of abuse after 2-month-old injured


    ZEPHYRHILLS — A 2-month-old child was taken to All Children's Hospital with multiple skull fractures Saturday afternoon, according to the Pasco County Sheriff's Office, and a 24-year-old man has been arrested.

    Jacob Brattain, 24, of Zephyrhills is charged with aggravated child abuse and was arrested Sunday. According to the Pasco County Sheriff's Office, a 2-month-old child suffered multiple skull fractures under his care.
  5. Amazon receives 238 proposals from places eager to become its 2nd headquarters


    NEW YORK — Amazon said Monday that it received 238 proposals from cities and regions in the United States, Canada and Mexico hoping to be the home of the company's second headquarters.

    Earlier this month, an Amazon employee gives her dog a biscuit as the pair head into a company building, where dogs are welcome, in Seattle. Amazon says it received 238 proposals from cities and regions hoping to be the home of the company's second headquarters. 
[AP Photo/Elaine Thompson]