PSAS/ PsuStudentClub/ SFCQuestions2007

Background Info

A portion of the money to operate Portland State University is paid directly by students as part of the registration process. This money includes Incidental Fees that are used to fund university programs and services that, in addition to the traditional academic elements of the university, further the cultural or physical development of the students at large.

The Student Fee Committee has the authority and responsibility to analyze and appraise budget requests and determine how the incidental fees collected will be used.

The Budget Process Guidelines of the Student Fee Committee require submission of your program's goals and objectives and a statement of activities or services. In order to make the budget process stream-lined, the SFC requests that you prepare short written responses (1 - 3 sentences) to commonly-asked questions that relate to the criteria upon which funding decisions are made.

There are different types of SFC-funded groups -- some are cultural, some are service-oriented - and groups have individual focuses which become apparent through the questions. If your group does not appear "strong" in its responses to all the areas, this does not mean you are ineligible for SFC funds. Please answer as many of the questions as possible.



1. Please state your program's (broad) goals.

Our vision statement – or long term goal – is to “put nanosatellites into orbit”. The first step towards orbiting nanosatellites is to develop an inexpensive, highly modular and actively guided sounding rocket. While we aim to use commercially-available hardware and existing software when possible, we often are forced to design and build custom circuit boards, mechanical components, and software to meet our goals.

2. Please state your current year's (specific) program objective.

This year, we are developing our next-generation rocket. Our Software Team's goal is to port Linux to a new flight computer. The Avionics Team's goal is to finish building the new sensor nodes and create USB firmware for the nodes. The Airframe Team's goal is to create a new airframe.

Our other goals include getting more student members and hosting more technical workshops. We'd also like to start a tradition of showing a rocket or engineering related movie during dead week.

3. What was last year's program objective?

Our summer 2005 objective was to launch our amateur rocket. The rocket was over 14 feet tall, and had special hardware and software that we'd been working on for about four years. Unfortunately, the rocket crashed.

Since the crash, our group's objective has been to redesign the rocket. During the 2005-2006 school year the Avionics Team sponsored an Electrical and Computer Engineering capstone project to design the new rocket sensor nodes. The capstone was a success, and students gained valuable experience in electronic design. During summer 2006, our Airframe team re-formed and began to redesign the airframe.

4. Please identify next year's program objective?

We hope to have the airframe ready to launch by the spring of 2007. We will do a test of the airframe without any electronics onboard, and then do a second launch with the full avionics system at the Blackrock Desert in Nevada in September of 2007.

By the end of next year we hope to have built three rockets. We would like to have multiple rockets so that if one crashes, we still have others to launch. Our crash last year really lowered our morale and we had to rebuild from scratch. We want to have three rockets so we can keep two on hand and allow other rocketry groups to borrow a third system. For example, the rocketry group at Brigham Young University has a good airframe and motor, but they'd like to fly our avionics system. Like any experimental work, we need real-world data to improve and refine our work, and partnerships with other groups give us the data we need while improving PSU's visibility.


1. Please describe your accomplishments for 2005-2006 and the first half of 2006-2007. Please indicate achievements (outcomes) as well as products or outputs completed.

On August 22nd, 2005, we launched our rocket in eastern Oregon. The launch was "a successful failure". Our hardware, software, and airframe worked perfectly. However, the black powder charge that was supposed to deploy the parachutes didn't fully burn. The parachute failed to deploy, and our rocket smashed into the ground at over 500 mph. Despite the destruction of our (only) rocket, we consider it a success because we proved our 802.11 wireless telemetry system, Linux flight computer, and advanced avionics system. We recorded volumes of data over the 68 seconds of the flight, which continues to be valuable as we prototype and simulate new designs.

In 2006, PSAS sponsored a senior capstone team to redesign our sensor nodes. The schematic was completed, but the board layout still needs to be finished. During the summer of 2006, the Avionics Team identified the software to be used on the sensor nodes, and demonstrated an example on a demo board with a similar microprocessor. The team members are currently working on customizing this software for the rocket.

In Spring 2005, IBM gave Prof. Bart Massey a grant to enable PSAS to use a PowerPC-based system for our new flight computer. PowerPC processors are best known for their use in Apple Macintosh computers, but variants exist for low-power specialized applications like ours. At the end of the 2005-2006 school year the Avionics Team selected appropriate PowerPC-based hardware, and over the summer the Software Team successfully booted Linux on this new flight computer. We are now prepared to convert our previous flight software for the new architecture, writing new code where necessary.

We regularly present at various conferences throughout the Northwest. In the last two years, we've presented our work at FreedomHEC in Seattle, and three times at IBM's Linux Technology Center in Beaverton. We've had exhibits at the O'Reilly Open Source Convention and the Digital Avionics Systems Conference, both in Portland, and most years we participate in OMSI's Space Days event. We expect to present to the Seattle chapter of the IEEE in December. (Our biggest conference event was in 2003, when we took the rocket and 40-foot launch tower to the exhibit hall of the Usenix Annual Technical Conference in San Antonio, where we also presented a technical paper.)

2. How many students did you serve, and how did you serve them, during 2005-2006 and the first half of 2006-2007? Please provide relevant examples.

We had seven students attend our launch in 2005. Since we didn't have SOC or SFC funding at that time, the students paid for the trip with their own funds.

We have approximately 12 students who regularly attend team meetings. There are often students who drift into our group for a brief period of time to work on a project.

We also introduce rocketry and engineering to the student population during our introductory meetings. They're held once a term, and usually have an audience of 10-20 non-members.

3. How would you measure your accomplishments during 2005-2006? Please identify strong points and weak points?

Our group has done well on the technical side; we've continued to build our rocket at a good pace. We also gained about six new active members, although we hoped to gain more. We've increased awareness about our group by participating in major events such as Party in the Park and College of Engineering open houses.

We still hope for improved contact with the PSU student body in coming years. Too many students still tell us, "Wow! I didn't know we had a rocket group at PSU."

4. What impact did SFC funding have on your goal and objective?

Last year, we only had SOC status. SOC funds paid for some electronics, food for the introduction/recruitment events, and a banner and business cards to help promote our group. SOC and SALP staff members also helped us find ways to get the PSU community more involved in our group.


1. How many Active members do you have this year? 21

2. How many members actively participate in meetings?

We only count active members as ones that regularly come to PSAS meetings. Some PSAS members only show up to launches or watch our group through the mailing list. There are approximately 250 people who follow our mailing lists.

3. How is membership recruitment done?

We openly invite all students - not just engineering or computer science students - who might have an interest in rockets, avionics, open source hardware and software or any of the other aspects of our group to join PSAS. We have a quarterly introduction meeting, which is advertised by flyer, email, and some classroom announcements. We also invite students we meet at other on campus events who might be interested to stop by one of our weekly meetings to learn more about PSAS.

4. How many students do you serve throughout the year?

We have about 12 students who regularly attend team meetings. There are also other students who drift into our group for a brief period of time to work on a specific project.

5. How many non-students do you serve throughout the year (please estimate)?

We have approximately nine community members who actively participate in our group. These include PSU alumni, faculty members, and local industry workers.


1. Please list meeting times and places and/or office hours for service.

Our group is divided into several teams. The Avionics and Software teams meet weekly at 7pm in the Fourth Avenue Building in room 155. Other teams, such as Airframe and Uncertainty, meet as needed. Our schedule can be found online at

At this time, officers do not hold office hours. Officers are, however, available via email at, and by phone as listed on our web site.

2. What do you do at your meetings?

The overall purpose of each team meeting is to further our technical development work. This includes but is not limited to:

3. How are group decisions made?

We evaluate pros and cons of different options until we reach a consensus. On those rare occasions when no consensus appears to be emerging, we hold a vote. We often debate about choices on the mailing lists to let members who can't make to our meetings participate in the discussion.

As an example, we recently decided to pick a new logo, which turned out to be somewhat controversial. The webpage for ideas, discussion, and the voting results can be found at


1. What are the activities or services planned in 2007-2008 ? List the specific annual events, activities, or conferences that are fundamental to your program with a brief explanation of why they're important to your mission.

Once a term, we will present an introduction PSAS to recruit new members into the group. We also hope to host a "movie night" once a term during dead week.

In the summer of 2007, we plan on testing our new airframe in eastern Oregon. We hope to use our SFC funding to pay for students' travel costs.

We'd also like to launch our rocket in September 2007 at the annual rocketry gathering in the Blackrock Desert of Nevada. Rocketry groups from around the country (and even some international groups) gather for a weekend to launch rockets and discuss new rocket technology. Rockets range from modified hobby rockets to amateur rockets that can go up to 100,000 feet. It will be a fun and educational experience, and we hope to use our SFC funding to send students to this event.

2. What type of advertising is done?

We use flyers, campus mailing lists, and word of mouth to spread the word about PSAS events, meetings, and activities.

3. How many students are involved in planning and executing events?

The three PSAS officers help out with the recruitment events, along with about three non-students. All of PSAS helps out with the planning and preparation that surrounds a launch.

4. How many students attend events?

In 2005, we had approximately seven active student members. All of those attended our launch in 2005. We expect that most of our 12 active student members will attend the launch in 2007.

We usually have about 10-20 students who attend our PSAS introduction events.

5. What does the general population (residents of Portland metro area) gain from these events?

Community members are always welcome to attend our general meetings, events, and launches. We have approximately nine non-students who actively participate with PSAS.

The Portland community has no other group quite like PSAS. We provide hands-on experience in airframe, electronics, and software design for rockets. A few other groups experiment with hobby rockets, but we are the only group in the Portland area to build our rocket from scratch. Aside from our group, no serious aerospace engineering occurs in Portland.

As far as we know, we are also the only group of our kind in the world that provides all our software and designs on our website. Reproducibility is important to science, and we encourage other teams to duplicate and improve on our work.

Community/Inter-group involvement

1. How many years has your group been on campus?

PSAS was established here at PSU in 1997, but has only been an official SALP group since the 2005-2006 school year.

2. Who in the community, or alumni, has supported your program either financially or through their participation?

We have approximately nine non-students who actively participate with PSAS. Five PSAS members are PSU alumni and one is a PSU faculty member. We also attract members of the local engineering industries like IBM and Intel.

In the spring of 2005, our Computer Science faculty advisor received a grant from IBM to fund PSAS research for a new PowerPC flight computer. We have also received grants from NASA through the Oregon Space Grant, and smaller grants from sources such as the Electrical Engineering department and the IEEE.

Early on, our research was funded out of our members' pockets, and we could not have reached this point without their contributions. We have also received a good deal of equipment and services as in-kind donations from local and nationwide companies: see

3. How has your program promoted PSU to the general population?

PSAS, which exists in spite of the lack of an Aerospace Engineering department at PSU, promotes the technical expertise and initiative of students at Portland State, as well as our enthusiasm. We have participated in many conferences and events outside PSU, as described in an earlier question. At every event, PSAS promotes Portland State University, its departments and programs, and its support of PSAS.

This group has been active in encouraging local people of high school age to pursue higher education in science and engineering. During the first five years of the club's existence, some of our members arranged more than twenty all-day sessions at Saturday Academy and local high-school physics and calculus classes to present our practical applications of science to students. We continue to arrange such sessions but at a slower pace, with the most recent occasion being a Saturday Academy class last year. We also encourage high-schoolers to participate in our activities, and one such student contributed to our launch in 2005. In addition, our Software Team lead is a middle-school drop-out who enrolled at PSU after a year of working with PSAS; he graduated with his Bachelor's in Computer Science this summer.

We also gather international press coverage, such as this Wired News article:,1284,59144,00.html

4. What other university activities has your program participated in (besides the ones it sponsors for itself)?

In the last year we have participated in every public event we could, including Party in the Park, Midnight Breakfast, and open houses sponsored by the College of Engineering and Computer Science.

5. What other campus or community groups have you worked with, and how do you work together?

Our campus and community involvement tends to be on a more individual basis, though we have given presentations on several occasions at meetings of the PSU chapter of the Association for Computing Machinery. In the future we hope to collaborate more with other student groups; obvious candidates include the engineering groups in the academic cluster.


1. Historically, have you fulfilled your budget objectives?

For the past year, we have been SOC funded. We have spent our budget on the items listed in our allocation requests and not over-spent our budget.

2. If some portion of your budget is self-generated, how are you doing this year in meeting your goals? How did you do last year, did you actually raise the funds you budgeted? If fund raising goals were not met, why not?

Our SOC budget had no self-funded component, and we had set no fund-raising goals. Most of our expenses were taken care of by our faculty advisor through his IBM grant, discussed in the next question.

3. What alternative sources of funding have been sought for this year's and next year's budget? If revenues are being generated, what's the source and how much is being generated?

Last year, our faculty advisor received a grant from IBM for $21,000. The grant was to fund development of our PowerPC flight computer, along with other rocket electronics and parts. However, the grant cannot be used to fund student travel, food, or promotion materials for PSAS. There is currently $10,000 left in the IBM grant. Some of that will be spent this year on airframe and avionics parts. We cannot count this as revenue in our budget, since the grant is assigned to Professor Bart Massey and the Computer Science department, not PSAS. However, we have removed approximately $7,500 worth of parts from our budget to reflect the grant money that should be left over in 2007-2008.

We plan on selling PSAS t-shirts, with which we hope to generate several hundred dollars. We have done similar fundraising in the past.

Finally, we have had good luck in the past with obtaining some equipment and services on an in-kind donation basis. We often order microchips in small enough quantities to fall under manufacturer's "sampling" programs, for instance.

4. What type of internal budget controls/safeguards does your program have over money or physical assets (e.g., equipment)? What steps do you take to ensure that your group does not overspend its actual revenue and SFC support?

Only our group officers can authorize purchases, and we always discuss purchases with the group beforehand. We keep track of our budget on our website. Our budgets, meeting notes, and other documentation can be found at

5. Specify how your hours and wages were set.

We are an entirely volunteer group and have no stipend positions.

6. Does the level of activity (degree of difficulty) justify the personnel costs requested?


7. Explain any wage increases between 2006-2007 and 2007-2008 .


8. What was the method you used for developing your budget for 2007-2008 ?

Initially, we sat down with members from all PSAS teams and worked out an example budget for building a full rocket in a year. The budget can be found at The equipment numbers are estimates based on what we have paid for similar parts in the past. It is difficult to get exact numbers, since we haven't designed the rocket yet and we don't know exactly which parts we need to use.

Once we had an example budget, we figured out what we were buying this year. We also figured out what we could buy with the IBM grant and subtract from the SFC budget request. We factored in travel to an Oregon launch site and a Nevada launch site, along with items to promote our group and food for events.

The budget was collaboratively edited by the three PSAS officers and three other PSAS members. We used an OpenOffice spreadsheet to calculate costs.