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Students prepared for space exploration and discovery

August 3, 2009

As the nation celebrates the 40th anniversary of Apollo 11's mission to the Moon, the interest in space exploration and discovery grows even stronger at Colorado State.

Over the past few months, several CSU students saw their experiments launched into space on NASA rockets, met with Nobel Prize winners and members of Congress, and took home the Grand Prize for their innovative design projects.

Data for senior design projects

Recently, four Colorado State University students experienced first-hand the excitement of a NASA launch as they watched a sounding rocket take off from Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, carrying their experiments 73 miles into space. University instructors and students from 21 states were on hand to witness the launch, which was the culmination of NASA’s RockOn! Workshop. 

The two teams from Colorado State successfully retrieved data from the experiments that can be used for their senior design project. “We are very thankful for the opportunity and experience this program provided us,” said CSU undergraduate Matt Lyon, “and look forward to coming back next year for another amazing week and launch!”

Trip to Washington, D.C.

Christina Watanuki, an engineering science major, took advantage of a unique opportunity that CSU offered last spring. Watanuki was selected to represent CSU and the Colorado NASA Space Grant Program on a trip to Washington, D.C., where she met with members of Congress to share her enthusiasm about space exploration and aerospace engineering.

During her visit, Watanuki also met with 
Leon Lederman, a Nobel Prize Winner in Physics and author of several books. “It was an amazing opportunity to spend that kind of time with an amazing scientist and supporter of the program,” said Christina.

One-of-a-kind system lands top prize

And for the second year in a row, Colorado State University took the Grand Prize at the Colorado Undergraduate Space Research Symposium. Electrical engineering undergraduate Jonathan Cox earned the top prize at the 2009 symposium for his Dynamically Adaptive Inverted Pendulum Platform.

Cox developed a one-of-a-kind modular control system that enables robots to react to changing weather conditions and remain stable while maneuvering in the rigorous terrain on Mars or the moon. He overcame limitations of standard platforms equipped with articulated arms, making them not only safer to use but also more reliable for tasks such as picking up and moving objects in very small spaces. 

Cox's design is lighter and less expensive, making it practical not only for short-range scouting on distant planets, but also as a mobile surveillance device or indoor service robot.

Exciting and worthwhile research

Azer Yalin, associate professor of mechanical engineering, directs CSU faculty and student participation in the Colorado NASA Space Grant Consortium. "The Space Grant program provides opportunities for our CSU undergraduate students to conduct very exciting and worthwhile research,” notes Yalin.  

Learn more about these projects at and

Contact: Lana Hoff
Phone: (970) 218-8893