ISS gains national recognition for technical, outreach and diversity efforts


The national Students for the Exploration and Development of Space organization has chosen the Illinois Space Society (ISS) student group for the SEDS Chapter of the Year Award.

The honor from SEDS, the world’s largest student-run space organization, recognizes outstanding performance in technical projects, educational outreach, and professional development. ISS efforts were acknowledged during the annual  SpaceVision conference that SEDS-USA hosted at Purdue University November 3-6.

ISS participated in seven technical projects this past year: the NASA Student Launch Rocketry Competition, the Hybrid Rocket Engine Project, the Space Grant Midwest High-Powered Rocketry Competition, the NASA Micro-g NExT Competition, the RASC-AL Mission Design Competition, the RASC-AL Mars Ice Challenge, and the High Altitude Balloon Project.

“These projects include various topics such as rocketry, robotics, systems engineering, space mission design, astronaut tool prototyping, atmospheric sciences, and engine design,” said Lui Suzuki, ISS Director. “(Through these opportunities,) members gain valuable technical hands-on experience and teamwork experience that is not regularly provided in the classroom.”

Illinois Space Day activities - hybrid engine exhibit
Illinois Space Day activities - hybrid engine exhibit
Outreach has been particularly important to the ISS group, which has hosted the highly visible and popular Illinois Space Day event on the University of Illinois Urbana campus for the past several years. The 2016 event, held October 15, drew 170 attendees, including 120 elementary and middle school-aged students, for demonstrations, exhibits, a keynote speaker, and hands-on activities

ISS alumnus Tucker Gritton, BS 2015, a propulsion system engineer for the United Launch Alliance, was the Illinois Space Day keynote speaker.

“(Gritton) gave a talk to teach children about rocketry and to excite them about the future in space,” Suzuki said. “Afterwards, we had a small hands-on activity in which each child built an egg drop lander that we dropped from the third floor to test whether (the lander) could land a raw egg without breaking it. With these varieties of activities, ISS and other aerospace (Registered Student Organization) members were able to share their passion for space and get kids excited about science as well.”

The effort ISS puts into Illinois Space Day and other outreach activities, including classroom visits, boyscout merit badge clinics, and Engineering Open House exhibits, led SEDS to select ISS for the Outreach Project of the Year Award.

Illinois Space Day activities - liquid nitrogen exhibit
Illinois Space Day activities - liquid nitrogen exhibit
ISS was further recognized at the conference with the International Space University/Women in Aerospace Gender Diversity Award. “Since last year, female participation in our technical projects has nearly doubled,” Suzuki said. “Our executive board is composed of four females and five males. Currently, about 20 percent of ISS members are female, and we will continue to try to increase female participation and representation within the organization and in the aerospace industry.”

ISS participated in State Farm Insurance Co.’s Millennium Girls Project, introducing 5th to 8th grade girls to various Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics and space-related fields through science activities. ISS also has worked with the Urbana chapter of Women in Aerospace to hold joint social and professional events.

“Interest in our society from female students for our technical projects, educational outreach, and professional development has increased significantly in the past few years,” Suzuki maintained.ISS strives to continue providing students with valuable technical opportunities and to engage with the local community through educational outreach activities.