The idea for this competition began several years ago. The College of Menominee Nation (CMN) began competing in the Wisconsin Space Grant Consortium’s (WSGC) collegiate rocket competition and the NASA University Space Launch Initiative. They started with no knowledge of rockets! Through workshops held by the WSGC and CAD software designed for building rockets, they have now launched over a dozen high-powered rockets. They began to ask the question; if we can do it, why can’t other tribal colleges do the same thing and First Nations Launch (FNL) was born.
Through the leadership of Dan Hawk, former president of the CMN rocket club, Norbert Hill, former Vice-President of the CMN Green Bay campus, Dr. Aileen Yingst, WSGC Director, and Sharon Brandt, WSGC Program Manager, the inaugural launch took place at Richard Bong State Recreational Area on May 1, 2010 with the help of a Minority Serving Institution Partnership grant from NASA. During the second year of FNL, American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES) teams were added. The Tribal College teams and AISES teams compete in different competitions on the same day. The AISES teams are now part of the annual competition with help from a NASA Exploration System Mission Directorate (ESMD) grant from Kennedy Space Center.
If it were not for the generous funding of NASA during this initial launch, the First Nations Launch program would not exist. NASA is committed to promoting Science, Technology, Engineering and Math opportunities for everyone. Their investment marks the beginning of what is planned to be an annual competition for many years to come.