Vanderbilt University students took first prize in NASA’s annual Student Launch Projects challenge, the U.S. space agency announced May 20.

The challenge requires student teams to design, build and fly small rockets with science payloads to an altitude of 1.6 kilometers and return the payload safely to Earth.

After two consecutive third place finishes, Vanderbilt’ s Aerospace Club traveled from Nashville, Tenn., to Alabama to launch their scratch-built rocket April 21 at Braggs Farms near NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center. Vanderbilt beat 35 other universities to take home the $5,000 purse put up by ATK Aerospace Group of Promontory, Utah. The Vanderbilt team also took home the Best Payload Design award for the most creative and innovative payload experiment. 

The University of Louisville in Kentucky and Tarleton State University in Stephenville, Texas, won second and third place, respectively.

Alabama A&M University in Huntsville won the Altitude Award for coming closest to the 1.6 kilometer mark without going over.