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.

SRL team members are making their mark on the aerospace industry at companies throughout the country.

Team Leadership

ZACH LESAN –
Team Captain

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

Elliott Mckee –
Team Captain

Hello! I’m Elliott, and I am a Team Captain here at SRL! I joined SRL at the start of my junior year here, and my only regret is not joining sooner. Joining SRL has exposed me to many challenges that would never be encountered in a classroom, and provides an environment in which to attack them alongside some of the brightest young engineers this school has to offer. Through SRL, I have had the opportunity to: work on Aerodynamic and Cold Gas Thruster controlled rockets, develop flight simulation and thermal ablation analysis software, perform CFD analysis on a wide variety of vehicles and subsystems, and so much more. As team captains, Zach and I work together with the subteam leads, and other team leadership to ensure progress towards our engineering goals, and sustainability as an organization; so that we can keep continue to shape future generations of engineers. If you’re interested in hearing more about who we are, what we do, or how we do it, feel free to reach out!

Contact: Elliott.McKee@colorado.edu
(303) 304-7275

cameron humphreys –
Lead Engineer

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

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

Solid motors are the bread and butter of Sounding Rocket Lab, and it has been our mission from the beginning to develop a lightweight and low-cost motor capable of taking us to space. Growing up in a family of engineers and spending lots of time around planes, I knew I wanted to spend my adulthood taking the aerospace field even further. In my later high school years, my interests shifted from planes to space and rocketry. I joined the team during my second semester of Aerospace Engineering at CU, first working on upgrades to our 2 axis fiber winder. Since then, I have been involved with the design, fabrication, and testing of nearly all SRL motors, and now lead the team’s efforts in all motor production. Together, my team works to test new materials, refine our designs to be reusable, and scale up to bigger and better motors.

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 tested 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 –
System Admin

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. I was the Avionics lead in a past life and that was a wild time, but I have now semi-retired and mainly run SRL’s server infrastructure. 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

Zoe Roy –
Avionics lead

Hi! I am a junior studying Computer Science and the Avionics Lead! My main interest is flight software and the programming side of aerospace. I joined SRL about a year ago and haven’t looked back since. In Avionics, our main focus is to create a Custom Avionics System, including software and electronics for the Spaceshot vehicle. Looking forward to this year and all we will accomplish!

Contact: zoro2037@colorado.edu

sam ciesielski –
fiberwinder lead

Greetings! I am a sophomore studying Engineering Physics and I lead our automated composites manufacturing efforts! We are dedicated to finding elegant means of going from carbon and epoxy to spaceflight-quality airframes, solid rocket motors, COPVs, and liquid engine nozzles. In short, we make the machine that makes the machine. Our current focus is the construction of a new 4-axis CNC filament winder designed in-house. Soon to be operational, this machine will have an array of interchangeable tooling to push more manufacturing complexity in to software. This is essential the development of a swift, calculated Spaceshot production cycle.

Contact: saci5314@colorado.edu

(734) 709-5564

Duncan Gottschall –
business Co-lead
Financial Officer

Contact: dugo6284@colorado.edu

Eric Gottschall –
business Co-lead

Eric is a senior studying Finance, Accounting, Math, and Economics. As the Co-Business lead, he helps secure funding for the projects as well as managing the club’s resources in conjunction with his brother, Duncan. Growing up in a family of engineers, he has always been interested in the field and couldn’t be more thrilled to work with the amazing team at SRL. Outside of school, he enjoys spending time in the mountains by being an avid skier, runner, or golfer depending on the season.

Contact: ergo4952@colorado.edu