For the Future of Engineering, Look Skyward

From demystifying science for primary school students to offering university co-op experiences that develop the next generation of engineers, Timken and its subsidiaries invest in partnerships that advance STEM education globally. In Italy, engineers at The Rollon Group support Skyward, a group of engineering students, in their pursuit to win the annual European Rocketry Challenge (EuRoC).

Skyward is comprised of students at the Polytechnic University of Milan, one of Europe’s premier technical colleges — a school from which several Rollon engineers graduated. Skyward members started designing and entering rockets into EuRoC in 2022. In 2022 — with the group’s first year of support from Rollon — they won.

“The work is personal for many of us,” says Alberto De Giorgi, Rollon’s business developer for the aerospace industry, who earned both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering from Polytechnic University of Milan. “We’re helping students from our alma mater and supporting rocketry, which isn’t an application we see every day in linear motion applications.”

Learning (and winning) with Rollon

Skyward students initially contacted Rollon for the same reason all customers do: to solve a technical problem. Initial linear motion solutions provided to Skyward by a different company led to a prototype issue. The initial request evolved into a collaboration on Skyward’s 2022 EuRoC entry, Pyxis, which successfully launched and reached an apogee of 3,033 meters. It was enough to win the competition for the most successful 3,000-meter rocket launch, as well as EuRoC’s Technical award.

Rollon engineers provided design consultation and miniature linear motion solutions for the rocket’s aerobrake system. Aerobrakes helped the Pyxis rocket gradually reduce its speed after launch so it could reach its 3,000-meter apogee target. As the brakes received data through telemetry and onboard electronics, Rollon® mini mono rails were activated to help extend and withdraw the aerobrakes into proper position.

Detail of rocket aerobrakes. “Linear rails reduce friction and allow the aerobrakes to be extended and withdrawn at rocket speeds close to the Cruise speed of an airliner,” De Giorgi said. “The aerobrakes are only the size of a credit card; without high-performing rails, it wouldn’t be possible to open and adjust them correctly.”

Rollon engineers provided similar consultation and product solutions for the 2023 Skyward team’s EuRoC competition rocket, Gemini.

Problem Solving Together

Often, engineers across the Timken portfolio mentor students during class projects or design competitions. Because Skyward students already have access to professors from one of Europe’s top engineering schools, Rollon engineers consult with the students like they would any other group of customers. In this way, students gain real-world experience collaborating with technical vendors and understanding how technical and manufacturing supply chains work.

Each Skyward team is invited to Rollon headquarters in Milan, just 25 kilometers from the university, for technical meetings and to inspect linear rail solutions before delivery. Skyward posts its progress with Rollon and other vendors on social media and shares important milestones like design updates and test launches every step of the way.

“We follow all of it,” De Giorgi said. “Everyone at Rollon is very inspired to be part of developing future engineers.”

Rollon and Skyward are currently working together on the student group’s 2024 EuRoC competition rocket, Lyrna.

Portrait of Alberto De Giorgi.

“It’s nice to support students, but we treat them like customers. Their professors coach them; we show them what it will be like to technically collaborate with suppliers when they join the workforce.”

Alberto De Giorgi

Aerospace Business Development Manager, Rollon
Joined Rollon in 2021
2007 and 2010 Polytechnic of Milan University Graduate

Portrait of Luca Scaccabarozzi.

“It’s been thrilling to see the Skyward students present their projects and share in their success and challenges. My favorite part has been watching the live test flights and learning the results.”

Luca Scaccabarozzi

Industry Sector Mechanical Engineer, Rollon
Joined Rollon in 2019
2016 Polytechnic of Milan University Graduate

Timken partners with diverse organizations delivering hands-on programs that inspire STEM careers worldwide. Learn more about our educational collaborations with NASA and the LeBron James Family Foundations’ I PROMISE School in the U.S.