• Lift-off with ShareLaTeX: Cornell Rocketry wins documentation award

    Posted on January 22, 2018

    In this Question and Answer session, Simran Shinh of Cornell University (Operations Research Engineering '20) tells us why Cornell Rocketry chose ShareLaTeX and how it helped them win an award for their technical documentation.

    Can you tell us a bit about Cornell Rocketry?

    Cornell Rocketry is an engineering project team dedicated to learning about how to design, assemble, and launch rockets. Each year, the team participates in the NASA Student Launch competition, which typically involves launching a high-powered rocket to 5,280 ft with a specific payload.

    Although we are a young project team, we have won the NASA Centennial Challenge (2016) and placed 3rd overall last year in the NASA Student Launch Competition. In 2017, we won 2 out of 5 technical awards, including the Safety Award and Project Review Award (which includes technical documentation and presentations).

    This year (2018) we are excited to challenge ourselves by building a rover as our payload, which deploys from our rocket at landing through remote activation. After deployment, the rover will autonomously move 5 feet and unfold a set of solar panels. Besides the deployable rover system, our team also works on creating a communication system for the rocket to allow the tracking of the rocket throughout launch. We are committed to challenging ourselves and look forward to achieving new heights at competition this year.

    Why, and when, did you start to use ShareLaTeX?

    We started using it at the beginning of 2017, after a recommendation from the previous business team lead, a computer science major. NASA requires many technical documents throughout the year (Proposal, Preliminary Design Review, Critical Design Review, Flight Readiness Review, Launch Readiness Review, and Post Launch Assessment Review). Many of them are as long as 200 pages or longer.

    What were the challenges in preparing your documentation?

    The documents contain many different features, from CADs and schematics to tables, Gantt charts, and mathematical calculations. Before, we would try to do these documents in Word or Google Docs. We also have a lot of references to other sections of the document throughout. We wanted the documents to look more professional and have more control over how they looked, and we wanted our team of 39 students to all be able to work on it at the same time.

    How did ShareLaTeX help with document production?

    ShareLaTeX was a good solution to the challenges we faced in producing complex documentation because we were able to share the responsibility as opposed to having one person be in charge of compiling all information and formatting. There is a lot less room for error this way.

    How easy was the transition to using ShareLaTeX?

    We believe very few, if any, teams that compete in the Student Launch use LaTeX for their documentation, and only a few people on our team knew LaTeX beforehand. For the very first document, we submitted our parts to the business lead, and he then translated it to LaTeX for us. However, after that, everyone caught on. We all learnt LaTeX quickly and began to write in LaTeX ourselves for the documents. Now, we are all pretty well-versed at it, and we are using different packages and formats to suit our needs.

    We are grateful to ShareLaTeX for sponsoring us in 2017 by providing free access to Professional features; that was a big help to us. We are excited to have won last year’s documentation award, and we hope to win it—and more—again this year.

    More about Cornell Rocketry

    Cornell Rocketry Team (CRT) consists of 39 members, comprised of members from all undergraduate school years. CRT members come from a variety of different backgrounds such as Applied Engineering Physics, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Computer Science, and Operations Research and Information Engineering, Mathematics, and Physics.

    For more information check out these websites:

    Photo gallery

    Our thanks to Simran for sharing these photos from Cornell Rocketry’s archive, enjoy!

    Cornell Rocketry’s annual team photo.
    Cornell Rocketry’s annual team photo.
    Cornell Rocketry Team members on a tour of Marshall Space Flight Center
    Cornell Rocketry Team members on a tour of Marshall Space Flight Center during the NASA Student Launch in Huntsville, Alabama. Photo credit: Liam Patterson (Electrical Engineering '20).
    Photo of Airframe subteam members
    Airframe subteam members, Kevin Liu (Mechanical Engineering '19) and Alex Li (Electrical Engineering '20) prepare the rocket during competition. Photo credit: Liam Patterson (Electrical Engineering '20).
    Photo attaching nose cone to the rocket
    Connor Dempsey (Engineering Physics '18) and Kevin Liu attach the nose cone to the rocket. Photo credit: Liam Patterson (Electrical Engineering '20).
    Cornell Rocketry Team poses with their rocket, Ezra.
    Cornell Rocketry Team poses with their rocket, Ezra. Photo credit: Liam Patterson (Electrical Engineering '20).
    Photo of Cornell Rocketry Team's rocket, Ezra, leaving the launch pad
    Ezra leaves the launch pad. Photo credit: Liam Patterson (Electrical Engineering '20).
    <img class="figure-img" src="https://www.filepicker.io/api/file/o7u85uLCSLSAjeLrfXTW" alt="alt="Photo of Cornell Rocketry Team's rocket, Ezra, in flight.">
    Ezra takes off! Photo credit: Liam Patterson (Electrical Engineering '20).