About

We are a team

of engineers, innovators, and students. The CU Sounding Rocket Laboratory is built on a foundation of reckless ambition and continuous learning, supported by University education in Aerospace Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Physics, Business, and other areas. With a focus on thorough safety protocols and conscientious engineering, SRL transcends the label of a student club as we develop our technical and personal skills in a rigorous environment.

Leadership

Anna Christiansen- Team captain

Hello! I joined SRL in January 2019, and have been inspired by this team and its missions ever since. SRL offers a rare opportunity for students to be involved in advanced engineering projects that push them to be passionate leaders and effective engineers. As a team captain for SRL, I have the privilege of working closely with our team leadership to develop strategic goals for the team and work to accomplish our missions. In addition to high-level leadership, I’m also involved in vehicle engineering, composite manufacturing development, and thermal protection system development and analysis.

Contact: annachristiansen8@gmail.com (937) 830-2571

Riley Fitzpatrick- Team Captain

Contact: rifi2703@colorado.edu
(303) 725-9009

cameron humphreys- team captain

Hello! My name is Cam and I am one of the project leads at CU SRL. We are rapidly becoming one of the most advanced collegiate rocketry teams in the nation, pioneering rapid production of composite flight hardware. I oversee development and manufacturing of our composite motor cases, nose cones, fins, and airframes. If you are interested in rockets of any type and how they are made you’ve come to the right place! Whether you’re a CU student looking to get involved or just someone with questions, please feel free to reach out!

Contact: cahu0119@colorado.edu
(650) 556-3124

ZACH LESAN- LEAD ENGINEER

CU SRL was the first thing I sought out when I came to CU as a freshman. Since joining over two and a half years ago, projects I’ve done with this team have taught me an immense amount about rocket propulsion engineering, manufacturing, composites, CAD, simulation, and more. For a little over two years, I was the team lead responsible for developing a composite rocket motor capable of launching our Spaceshot vehicle past the 100km barrier known as the Kármán line for about two years, and have made a lot of flames happen in the process. Now, I’m in charge of pushing our incredible team to implement better engineering practices to make good products on extremely tight timelines. I have done a lot of work for almost every team we have over the past two and a half years, and in doing this have developed a solid understanding of everything we do. I am also in charge of turbopump development for our liquid engine team!

Contact: Zachary.Lesan@colorado.edu
(571) 206-0940

Project Leads and Advisors

James Nabity, Ph.d.- Faculty advisor

Dr. Nabity is an Associate Professor in the Department of Aerospace Engineering Sciences working for Bioserve Space Technologies. He has been a professor at CU since 2013, and prior to that he was a Principal Engineer at TDA Research, Inc. and a Mechanical Engineer at the Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division. He received his Pd.D. in Mechanical Engineering from CU, and was deemed a NASA highly qualified candidate for the Astronaut Class of 2009, among myriad other achievements.

For the past several years, Dr. Nabity has been the official faculty advisor for SRL, providing exceptional technical and administrative advice for all of our operations. Today, Dr. Nabity is the primary advisor for all of SRL’s rocketry projects.

rex laceby- Team advisor

Rex Laceby is a retired, prior-enlisted, Marine Corps Officer with an Infantry & Special Operations background. He is the Co-Founder and President of the CU-Boulder Veterans Alumni Association which provides fun social events, community service opportunities, transitional assistance and networking opportunities to CU Boulder student veterans and alumni. He is also the Program Director of the National Security Innovation Network, and he works to support CU Engineering students’ engagement in National Security projects.

Rex met the team in the Fall of 2019 and has been deeply involved ever since. Today, he is one of our primary advisors in the fields of safety and risk mitigation, as well as being one of our primary liaisons to the University of Colorado as a whole. His leadership and experience are an invaluable resource for the leadership of the team, helping guide us toward our goals while maintaining an atmosphere of integrity and professionalism.

kushal kedia- composite motor development lead

Contact: Kushal.Kedia@colorado.edu

owen kaufmann- liquid engine development

Liquid engines are a technology that very few student organizations have ever attempted. They are where the rubber meets the road in terms of when rocket science becomes “rocket science”. By developing our first two liquid engines, SRL is furthering the tradition of setting the next bar high. As team lead, I am working to get a liquid bipropellant rocket engine flown Spring 2021, and to give Spaceshot a run for its money (or an alternative propulsion option) before Spring 2022. It is a uniquely opportune time for SRL to pursue liquid engine development, as we now have the capability to merge the composites technologies we have perfected with additive manufacturing of exotic materials.
My particular investment in this project stems from my passion for inspiring people. I want to work with my peers to build something that inspires the next generation of innovators, the same way that aircraft like the SR-71 and XB-70 inspired me to pursue my dream job as a vehicle engineer in Northrop Grumman Special Programs.

Contact: Owen.Kaufmann@colorado.edu

Chris lolkema- obsidian lead

Hey! I’m Chris and I’m a Sophomore, and more importantly an aspiring Aerospace Engineer, out of Washington State. For as long as I can remember I have always had a passion for engineering and aerospace, some of my earliest memories include building elaborate Lego spaceships and space ports. It was only natural that I would end up half a country away at the University of Colorado. I have been involved with SRL since my first semester at CU and was immediately drawn to the community and support this club offers. The main projects that I have helped with have been Diamondback, Space Shot and the Obsidian Launch Vehicle where I eventually became the project lead for. SRL has and will continue to be an amazing club to be a part of and I am excited to see what the future holds for us.

Contact: Christopher.Lolkema@colorado.edu

kenny olavarria- propellant dev lead

Hello! My name is Kenneth Olavarria and I am the Propellant Development lead for CU SRL. I am an Aerospace Engineering major with an interest in chemistry and propulsion. I joined SRL during my first year of university, where I developed and manufactured propellant for our first 8” diameter motor. I now lead the prop dev team, and I take responsibility for the design, production and testing of high-performance propellant (and necessary tooling) to meet our goal of breaking through the Kármán line.

Contact: Kenneth.Olavarria@colorado.edu

nick boender- two stage lead

Hello, my name is Nicholas Boender and I am the Two Stage Control Rocket lead for CU SRL. I have been a member of CU SRL for the last three and a half years ever since my freshman year. That year I was one of the members who built our first fiber winder and was involved with composite development that led to the launch of the Copperhead vehicle. I am an aspiring Aerospace Engineer with an interest in control, simulation, and propulsion. Besides leading the two stage project on SRL, I have also been involved with research on campus in the bioastronautics department.

Contact: Nicholas.Boender@colorado.edu

jason popich- avionics lead

I am an aspiring Aerospace Engineer with an interest in control, electronics, and flight software. I started at an early age programming with C++, and then in consecutive years learned C, Fortran, and Python. Lately, I have been learning about electronic design and assembly with the help of fellow Avionics members and that’s been a wild time. Outside of club/school, I have a job at LASP and in my free time I enjoy mountain biking, stargazing, fishing, and Colorado’s favorite pastime- hiking.

Contact: Jason.Popich@colorado.edu

ian faber- Ground control systems lead

Hey there! My name is Ian Faber, and I’m the Ground Control team lead here at SRL! I’m currently a freshman pursuing a degree in aerospace engineering sciences as well as a double minor in applied mathematics and electrical engineering (or signals and systems, I can’t choose…). I’ve always had a sweet spot for electronics, and I’ve dabbled in everything from Arduino to Raspberry Pi, creating projects ranging from RC holonomic robots to camera vision navigating pirate ships! I love all things space and science, and I’m incredibly excited to have the opportunity to lead this integral part of SRL. On a personal level, I’m a pretty chill guy. I love playing video games, reading, and messing around with whatever “higher-level” concepts I can get my hands on. I also dabble in making synthwave music from time to time, and I’m always down for a card game.

Contact: Ian.Faber@colorado.edu

sam ciesielski- fiberwinder lead

Greetings! I am a sophomore studying Engineering Physics interested in materials science. At SRL I’ve worked on vehicle design, composites manufacturing, and liquid propulsion development. I lead a team dedicated to finding elegant means of going from fibre and epoxy to space-quality parts through process engineering of our filament winder. In short, we make the machine that makes the machine. The winder allows us to manufacture custom composite airframes, nosecones, solid rocket motors, liquid rocket engines, and propellant tanks. Our current focus is the construction of a new 4-axis fiber winder which we’ve designed in house. Soon to be operational, this machine will allow us to wind larger parts faster with more complex contours while maintaining complete control over the process. This is essential to our goal of implementing a spaceshot vehicle production system and the development of COPVs for our liquid propulsion endeavors.

Contact: Sam.Ciesielski@colorado.edu

ethan fleer- business lead

I am a senior pursuing a degree in aerospace engineering. The business team pursues sponsorship opportunities from corporate entities, grant proposals, and community outreach and ensures that CU SRL has enough money to operate.

Contact: Ethan.Fleer@colorado.edu