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William Cunningham '16 and Alexander Delavega '16: Rocket to the 14th Century

The Research

Physics and astronomy majors William Cunningham (left) and Alexander Delavega embarked on a multistage research project to design and reconstruct a Ming Dynasty rocket that is mentioned in Chinese military treatises from the 14th century. They have examined translations from primary sources, done wind-tunnel testing on scale models for preliminary aerodynamic analysis, and conducted field testing of larger models.

In Their Own Words

“We were surprised to discover that, even with modern technologies, it was difficult to recreate the tacit knowledge developed during the Ming Dynasty that was necessary to construct the rocket. Our interdisciplinary project is exciting as it exposes us to a variety of fields, such as history, chemistry, and engineering.”

Adviser: Yulia Frumer, Assistant Professor, History of Science and Technology