Engineering student fulfilling childhood dream


Samuel Janssen always knew he wanted to be an engineer, but was too young to know what an engineer was until one day at school he read a book by Homer Hickam called “October Sky.”

“I remember as a child I would build model rockets,” Janssen said. “I like to see how things worked, and that includes taking things apart and putting things back together.”

Janssen is a senior majoring in aerospace engineering. He plans on graduating in May 2017, and hopes to get a job with NASA.

“My goal is to work in the space industry because I like working with space and rockets, rather than airplanes,” Janssen said. “I feel like after reading that book, I sort of decided that I wanted to be a rocket scientist, or rocket engineer, which is the technical term. That’s what I prefer anyways.”

Janssen is a four-year member of the Wichita State Rocket Club (WSRC). Being a standard member on his first year at WSRC, he managed to contribute and gain knowledge from fellow club members, which later promoted him to become a committee chair in his second year. During that time, he said he was given more responsibility over club duties, but enough for him to learn more about the club before becoming the WSRC president in his third year as a member.

However, this year, Janssen said he forfeited his campaign for presidency in WSRC because there were other members within the club who had wanted to run for office, and with his busy schedule, especially with senior design, he wanted to work with what his schedule permitted.

“Senior design is an intense class, but it’s a lot of fun,” Janssen said. “Working up all the way to senior year, we learn a lot of theory, but don’t really get to do much with it, and this is really the first time we get to design something.”

WSRC is a student organization set up to give students at Wichita State a chance to experience engineering and high-powered rocketry. Founded in 2011, WSRC has seen many of its members attain the Tripoli High Power Rocketry Level 1 and Level 2 certification. The club is open to WSU students in any major who have a passion for rocketry, research and fun.

“Everything in the club is designed and built by its members,” Janssen said. “Members actually do tasks outside of theory, and do something with our hands. Up until this point, a lot of our classes don’t require us to do a lot of field work, so it’s a real interesting organization.”

Within the club, members are divided into upperclassmen and lowerclassmen, whereby the upperclassmen are generally the most experienced members within the club who are assigned to teach the lower classmen how to apply principles or how to design a successful rocket or prelude that they are interested in designing.

“It’s a very unique and fun club,” Janssen said. “I think it has a lot of positive impact on people who share a common interest for rocketry, and it forms a nice group for people to also make friends.”

On Oct. 8, WSRC will launch its Shocker High Altitude Rocket Project III (SHARP III) in Argonia. SHARP III weighs 60 pounds, stands at 10-feet-tall, and 8-inches in diameter. This has been a two-year project designed by a group of seniors within the club.

Janssen said some finishing touches remain to be done to it, especially checking to see if the parachutes would deploy properly.

Janssen said the rocket is expected to fly at least 10,000 feet in the air.

“It’s a big, big rocket,” Janssen said. “There’s just something about seeing the things you’ve built fly away so high in the air. I’m really excited about this project. It would be a huge highlight for rocket club this year.”