Logo: University of Southern California

PRESS RELEASE: Propelling Futures Forward

USC Collaborates with Nonprofit Base 11 for Rocket-Based STEM Education
For Immediate Release
May 18, 2016 —

Starting in 2016, a cohort of top students from area community colleges will have an opportunity to participate in the USC Viterbi School of Engineering student-run Rocket Propulsion Lab (RPL). The program is part of a new collaboration between USC Viterbi and nonprofit Base 11.

The two organizations are teaming up to reach a common goal: building a pipeline for underserved students to pursue STEM careers and to spur entrepreneurship and innovation.

The collaboration, made possible by a gift from philanthropist Foster Stanback, will support RPL’s efforts to be the first undergraduate team to launch a rocket into space. Participating community college students will be full-fledged members of the RPL, collaborating on rocket technologies in the lab and traveling to desert sites to fire engines and launch rockets. In addition, during the summer months, participating community college students will take up residence at USC and conduct research towards building devices or other engineering objects, which may include working on small-scale application such as drones.

“We are thrilled with the Base 11 collaboration, which will help attract more students into engineering, particularly from underrepresented backgrounds. In particular, we are pleased that the students will be highly engaged in the fascinating and rapidly growing space industry. We look forward to the contributions from Base 11 students,” said USC Viterbi School of Engineering Dean Yannis C. Yortsos.

"The collaboration with USC is game changing," said Base 11 CEO, Landon Taylor. "Our goal is for high potential low resource community college students to see STEM careers as highly lucrative and very cool. Tell me what's cooler than getting the chance to build and launch rockets into space like Elon Musk?"

The opportunity to work in the Rocket Propulsion Lab has been transformational for several generations of USC Viterbi students, many of whom chose USC specifically because of RPL. “The knowledge, hands-on experience and confidence gained from RPL work has opened the doors for internships and permanent employment at rocket companies like SpaceX, Blue Origin, and Virgin Galactic, as well as space companies like Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman. We hope that the collaboration with Base 11 will extend this opportunity to community college students as well,” said Daniel Erwin, Chair of the USC Viterbi Department of Astronautical Engineering and RPL faculty lead.

USC’s Legacy of Space Exploration
USC has a long legacy of innovation in space exploration. USC’s thought leaders, such as USC Viterbi School of Engineering namesake, Andrew Viterbi, and the late Sol Golomb, have revolutionized space communications. The university’s researchers have innovated in spacecraft propulsion, space science, space environment, and many other astronautical areas.

The USC Viterbi School of Engineering counts Neil Armstrong as its alumnus and is one of a core group of top schools with an astronautical program. The program has deep connections to pioneering space organizations via alumni who work at NASA, the Jet Propulsion Lab and commercial space companies who design and build rockets and space launchers; communications and direct broadcasting satellites; navigational systems; manned space vehicles; and planetary probes.

About the USC Rocket Propulsion Lab
The RPL is a student group in the Department of Astronautical Engineering at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering that was founded in 2004. Membership is drawn from students across the USC campus. RPL members learn the basics of mechanical fabrication, machining and welding, navigation and control. Students carry out two to five rocket launches per year, as well as ground tests of rocket engines.

Graduates and interns can be found in space companies such as Aerojet, Blue Origin, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, SpaceX and Virgin Galactic. With the proposed renovation of the Science and Engineering building on the USC University Park Campus, RPL will be relocated to a new state-of-the-art facility within the next two years.

About Base 11
Base 11 is a STEM workforce and entrepreneur accelerator. We connect employers, academic institutions, and entrepreneurial opportunities with high-potential, low- resource students who have shown interest and talent but lack the access and resources needed to realize their greatest potential. Our mission is to build a sustainable middle class in America by developing the STEM workforce and entrepreneurs that our country so desperately needs. Learn more at http://base11.com/

About USC Viterbi School of Engineering

Engineering Studies began at the University of Southern California in 1905. Nearly a century later, the Viterbi School of Engineering received a naming gift in 2004 from alumnus Andrew J. Viterbi, inventor of the Viterbi algorithm now key to cell phone technology and numerous data applications. One of the school’s guiding principles is engineering +, a coined termed by current Dean Yannis C. Yortsos, to use the power of engineering to address the world’s greatest challenges. USC Viterbi is ranked among the top graduate programs in the world and enrolls more than 6,500 undergraduate and graduate students taught by 185 tenured and tenure-track faculty, with 73 endowed chairs and professorships.