Design, build, fly. That’s what more than 1,700 collegiate rocketeers from around the world will do June 17-22, 2024, during the 2024 Spaceport America Cup – the world’s largest intercollegiate rocket engineering conference and competition. And Onshape will be at the forefront as this year’s lead sponsor. 

What is the Spaceport America Cup?

Spaceport America Cup brings together students, faculty, industry representatives, and amateur aerospace enthusiasts from more than 150 institutions across the globe. The Cup is designed around the Intercollegiate Rocket Engineering Competition for student rocketry teams, with participating teams from American and international colleges and universities. 

From the Experimental Sound Rocket Association website, a partner organization, “Designing, building, and flying research rockets is a great way to motivate and encourage students to pursue STEM-based careers….and the competition motivates them to extend themselves beyond the classroom to design and build these high-flying machines themselves.”

Throughout the event, which is held in the Southern New Mexico desert, students will launch solid, liquid, and hybrid rockets to target altitudes of 10,000 and 30,000 feet. But these aren’t just any rockets – these are rockets designed, manufactured, built, and tested by the students themselves. And that’s where Onshape comes in.

spaceport americaThe desert sky over Spaceport America. (Courtesy: Spaceport America)

How Onshape Benefits Spaceport America Cup Participants

PTC and Onshape have a long legacy of supporting student competitions through software, resources, sponsorships, and more. This includes youth robotics competitions like FIRST, as well as collegiate-level events such as Formula SAE. In the summer of 2023, Onshape participated in the Spaceport America Cup as a sponsor and will join the one-of-a-kind event in 2024 as lead sponsor. 

“We are thrilled to be the lead sponsor of this event and recognize the impressive engineering demonstrated by the students,” remarked Dr. Jordan Cox, Senior Vice President, PTC Education Programs. “Our cloud-native CAD platform Onshape is uniquely suited to enable design team collaboration and events like this showcase the incredible things that can be accomplished when teams collaborate effectively. We are excited to work closely with Spaceport America and ESRA to enable student innovation with the most accessible professional CAD.”  

Beyond sponsoring the event, as the one and only cloud-native CAD platform, Onshape has become a critical component of many participating teams’ design-build-fly processes. 

Scenes from the 2023 competitionAt left, a rocket launches into the sky during the 2023 competition. Attendees, at right, look up. (Courtesy: Spaceport America Cup)

Leveraging Onshape: RockÉTS Team

The RockÉTS team is a collegiate rocketry science club at École de Technologie Supérieure (ETS) in Montreal, and the most decorated team in Canada. Celebrating 10 years of team rocketry, they are no strangers to the annual rocketry competition or the challenges of designing and building from scratch a rocket that can soar more than 30,000 feet into the air. 

Nearly two years ago they made the switch to Onshape and have never looked back.

“Everything we do in our club, we design everything. We manufacture pretty much all of the rocket in-house. All the electronic designs, all the welding, everything except for a couple of commercial parts like the parachute,” says Joey Simard, technical specialist for the RockÉTS. 

In his role as technical specialist, Simard oversees any and all manufacturing that is done by the team, whose rocket won in the 30,000-foot category at the 2023 Spaceport America Cup event. 

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For Simard, having a CAD system that is accessible to all of their 40+ team members, makes collaboration easy and eliminates the headaches of file sharing and version control, is critical. 

He also loves that Onshape isn’t just a place to create models, but can be a platform for managing the whole design process. 

“The fact that you can import not only CAD files, but PDFs, Excel files, and everything, like spreadsheets, it’s amazing. It’s cool that you can have basically all your files and data and documents in Onshape, and after that, it’s all available to everyone.” 

Onshape’s education subscription is available free to both students and educators, and is becoming the CAD platform of choice for competitive teams in a variety of events. Because Onshape is cloud-native, as Simard highlighted, work done in Onshape can be shared with anyone and everyone on the team who needs to access the design and associated documents, and all they need is a web browser. 

For project managers like Mathieu Gagnon, who oversees the project for the RockÉTS team, the ease of collaboration in Onshape is a game changer. 

“The fact that it’s all cloud-based and everything is [in the browser] helps us to onboard more people and work collaboratively. We had certain issues with our old [desktop] CAD software and it was very hard to get everybody to work together where you’d have to check in, check out constantly,” says Gagnon. “People would forget to check in for long periods of time, and then there’d be conflicts. Whereas with Onshape it’s instantly synchronized.

“We have a lot less issues with parts being out of date, or conflicts, things like that. [Onshape] allows people to work on the same project at the exact same time…so you can see what others are doing in real-time,” he adds. “That was the big advantage for us.”

competitors stand by an Onshape signRockÉTS team members along with a few Onshapers during the 2023 Spaceport America Cup.

Supporting Spaceport America Cup and Beyond

The RockÉTS team is one of many student teams using Onshape to design and build something out of this world. 

Teams from around the world are already leveraging Onshape to make their design process smoother and faster, many of them taking advantage of the Onshape Education Enterprise subscription that is available free to collegiate teams. The Enterprise subscription allows teams their own private domain in which to work and collaborate, the ability to run simulations, and to easily innovate on their designs. And, this offer is available to collegiate teams participating in a variety of competitions, not just rocketry.

With Onshape, student teams at all levels have been able to sweep competitions, from FIRST Robotics to underwater robotics contests. Take a look at some successes: 

These teams exemplify how student groups can benefit from Onshape. Learn how your team can, too.

Are you on a collegiate team or club that uses CAD?

Learn about Onshape sponsorship opportunities!