It was launch day for Texas A&M University’s Sounding Rocketry Team (SRT), and as the countdown began, Sarah Kinney ’24 held her breath. The rocket they were about to test, dubbed Lazarus, represented more than two years of work from SRT members.
The countdown reached zero, and Lazarus roared to life, its fiery tail shooting it nearly 8,000 feet above the ecstatic group. “It was beautiful,” Kinney recalled. “We all teared up a little as we watched.” As the rocket began its descent, however, the tears weren’t all joyful. The rocket had split into three pieces rather than the expected two, and the engine plummeted to the ground with no parachute.
Undeterred, Kinney and the team began repairs and improvements. For SRT, problem-solving is all part of the learning process that has strengthened its members’ skills and led to the construction of five different rocket frames and hybrid engines in nine years.
Kinney’s determination to tackle challenges and reach new heights extends beyond her role with SRT. A President’s Endowed scholar and Endowed Opportunity Award scholar, she immerses herself in aerospace engineering academics through classes, research and summer internships while still finding time for SRT and passions outside the engineering field. Discover her personal playbook for success that will continue taking her nowhere but up.
1. Go Beyond the Classroom
Kinney grew up launching model rockets with her dad, so when she discovered Texas A&M had an organization that provided hands-on engineering experience through designing, building and launching complex hybrid rockets, she was hooked. Even before setting foot on campus, the California native emailed one of SRT’s leaders, who encouraged her to apply despite her lack of experience. To her surprise, she landed a spot on the dynamics sub-team and quickly rose to dynamics manager her sophomore year.
In this position, Kinney led the group responsible for modeling their rocket’s trajectory, stability and aerodynamics. As a dynamics sub-team member this fall, she is helping design the airframe for the new rocket the team will launch at an intercollegiate rocket competition next year. “I love seeing how every sub-team works together,” Kinney said. “No one can be an expert in every area, so we have to trust one another that every subsystem will work. It brings us closer as a team.”
2. Never Stop Learning
Realizing the importance of civic engagement, Kinney sought to learn about the politics of her new state when she arrived in Aggieland. She visited her political science professor’s office hours twice a week during her first semester to discuss Texas politics. There, she learned about a few students starting a campus chapter of MOVE Texas, a nonpartisan organization encouraging college-age citizens to exercise their civic duty and engage with local politics.
Kinney became the group’s outreach director, helping it grow and share its message with students. “Voter turnout for 18- to 25-year-olds is abysmal,” Kinney said. “It’s important that people my age get involved because it’s our future.”
3. Find Your Place
When Kinney was considering her college path, her foremost concern was finding the right community. “My biggest fear going to college was, ‘Will I fit in?’” she recalled. “But I found a community in Aggieland that supports me in all I do.”
This support began with several scholarships, including a prestigious President’s Endowed Scholarship created by Dorothy and Lester Jay ’45. Lester found his own place in the Aggie community during his time at Texas A&M and participated in the iconic Corregidor Muster in 1946. Inspired by his experiences, the Jays decided to provide the same opportunities to future students.
“Daddy loved Texas A&M so much,” said Sally Jay and Judy Green, the Jays’ daughters. “We are so proud that our parents’ legacy lives on in their scholars. Our hearts are full knowing that students like Sarah will remember their names, and we hope Sarah knows they would be extremely proud of her.”
Thanks to this generosity, Kinney continues to aim high. “Texas A&M has given me so many opportunities, and my scholarships opened doors I couldn’t have imagined,” she said. “I find time for it all because I love everything I do.”