University of Minnesota students win Bayer-Big Ten Alka-Rocket Challenge

The team of winning students.

A triumphant team of student rocketeers from the University of Minnesota have blasted their way into history by winning the Bayer-Big Ten Alka-Rocket Challenge and capturing a place in the annals of GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS.

Created by Bayer, the Challenge is an out-of-this-world competition to design and launch an Alka-Rocket that sets the GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS title for the highest launch of an Alka-Rocket.* A staple of backyard science experiments, Alka-Rockets are model rockets often built using a 35mm canister propelled by the chemical reaction that occurs when effervescent tablets are mixed with water.

A panel of judges named the University of Minnesota team as winner of the Challenge after the team’s Alka-Rocket soared 430 feet in the air during finals held today at Space Center Houston in Texas. The University of Minnesota prevailed over teams of finalists from Northwestern University and Rutgers University. About 100 Houston-area school children were also on hand to witness history in the making.

In addition to a GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS title, the winners take home a cash prize of $25,000. On Dec. 2, the rocketeers will be recognized on the field of Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis during the Big Ten Championship Game.

“This competition gives us a chance to show off our engineering skills on the national stage,” University of Minnesota Rocket Team lead Kevin Schrader said. “This gave us a chance to get into a good competition, compete against other schools in the Big Ten, and represent our school.”

Kevin Schrader, Jeffrey Guevara, Brody Hultman, Machlen Polfliet, and Andrew Van Gerpen were the five University of Minnesota students representing the Rocket Team in Houston. But, the judges weren’t the only ones who enjoyed the competition.

“The Challenge has been a blast to be a part of,” said Dr. Mae Jemison, former astronaut, engineer and science education leader. “My fellow judges and I were very impressed with the modeling, testing and ingenuity the college finalists teams demonstrated in the design and launching of their Alka-Rockets. We will certainly be looking to them to build the next advances in science and engineering in the years to come.”

In addition to Jemison, judges of the Challenge were Cliff Ransom, executive editor of Scientific American Custom Media, and Dave Brown, coordinator of Space Center Houston’s Space Center University.

Bayer created the Challenge and partnered with the Big Ten to generate awareness about the country’s need for more scientists, engineers and innovators. Bayer has a longstanding commitment to science literacy and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education. In addition to dominating all athletic conferences, Big Ten universities lead the nation in completion of PhDs in Mathematics, Engineering and Science.

“Bayer’s partnership with the Big Ten has enabled us to make the Alka-Rocket Challenge exactly what we envisioned – an opportunity to have a blast while conveying the importance of science literacy and STEM education,” said Raymond F. Kerins Jr., Senior Vice President of Corporate Affairs for Bayer. “We congratulate the University of Minnesota and look forward to recognizing their accomplishment at the Big Ten Championship Game next month.”

Alka-Rockets are often used in American science classes to demonstrate principles of chemistry and physics. For more than a quarter century, Alka-Rockets have been a staple experiment in Bayer’s Making Science Make Sense® (MSMS) award-winning science literacy initiative in the United States.

*The official title recognized and recorded by GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS is Highest launch of an effervescent tablet.

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