Starting a SEDS Chapter

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If your school does not have a SEDS Chapter, it doesn't mean there can not be one. But, there are some things I wish I heard when I was starting the University of New Hampshire's chapter.

Starting an organization (or a SEDS chapter) is hard. It could be the hardest thing you have ever done in your life so far. It's not the hard that is that insanely impossible thermal system problem that takes you and your team a couple of weeks to fully answer... It is the kind of problem that never goes away.

In the most simplest terms and convenient definitions, an organization built by you is like a child. And a child learns from you, a child needs you to grow to what it will become, and its the childhood years are instrumental to what it can become. You are going to raise your child. And if you talk to any parent, they will say raising a child, like yourself at one point, was hard. So, if you are reading this, remember that this is a BIG deal. This is not to persuade you not to do it. The stuff I am bringing up are the realities of the magnitude of work it takes. The commitment needed.

On the flip-side, it is rewarding. You have the opportunity to build a family of space-loving nerds. You have the opportunity to not only change the course of your life for the better, but the lives of the team you create. In terms of myself, I owe everything I have in life because of my chapter, professionally and personally. This small, insane, interesting, wonderful, amazing chapter. It has connected me with so many inspirational, beautifully talented, awesomely passionate people that will be moving with me, plowing through challenges that will carry us closer to becomes space-travelers. As it is said over this entire wiki, do not hesitate to contact any of us about questions, mentor-ship, anything. We are one big team.

The 2018-2019 UNH SEDS Spacevision Squad

-Charlie Nitschelm, 9/1/19

Finding Officers and Members

If you moved on from the last section of this page, it means you do have what it takes. You are passionate and driven. But, there is a huge reality you will experience when finding your team and the officers to lead the organization: not a lot of people are as passionate as you. But remember, there is nothing wrong with that. People have different views of what is important to them. Some work to live, and some live to apply their mind to their work. But, as a leader, it is your job to select the right people you can rely on to get their job done. They are out there. Space is exciting, and a lot of students in University now are excited about it, it is just your job to organize them, inspire them and provide them with the tools to make a difference in your organization, and later in the working world.

I suggest sending emails out to the majors you are interested in contacting by getting in touch with the people with the power to do so. Visit classrooms. Anything to become face-to-face with people to look them in the eye and share your vision. Those are the primary ways to find people and retain them in your ideas. I have also realized that people think it is necessary to find officers and members first before creating the goal and vision of the club. I think that is backwards. People want to follow the vision and goals of the organization, and sometimes the people. Take SpaceX. If you ask most of the employees why they want to work there, its because of the mission (and our Lord and Savior Elon). Give them something to see, show them that what you are trying to do is real, and already happening on the day-to-day. You will find it is much easier to entice people into a community when it seems already real. Not everyone wants to start something from nothing. Many want something that is already established and to be an individual contributor. All in all, your team is the people. It isn't all about your achievements, but the family you form. Even when talking about your experience in your club, employers are less interested in the intense engineering that you do, but they are interested in the team dynamic. How do you fit in to the team? What have you done as a leader and project manager to make an effective team? The lessons you learn on how to be a great team player is, in my opinion, the most important skill there is to gain in college. The room full of people is always smarter then the lone genius. We have our strength in numbers. Now go out, share your vision, and find your team. Find your family.

Finding an Adviser

An adviser can be a HUGE tool for a college organization, and it can also be required to officially be an entity of your college. Now, there are different routes you can go with selecting the best adviser for you. I will go over both and the pros and cons for each.

A Technical Adviser

If you feel having someone who will work closely in any of your engineering projects, you should locate a professor who is not only technically proficient in the projects you are interested in, but has the time to commit to the team. Both are essential. In terms of finding the right person, that is on you. Search the web, ask around. But the right person can make a huge impact on the team's direction for all engineering projects.

A General Adviser

An adviser does not need to be technically proficient to be a huge resource to you and your team/chapter. Especially if your group isn't interested in engineering projects. If a professor wants to be your adviser, seek out ways to help you, plow through barriers with you and assist you in anything your chapter needs, that is the adviser that will have the biggest impact to developing and growing your organization. The reality is for any organization, the most difficult things are the small ones that people don't want to take on. It usually isn't the engineering. The people aspect of a club, communicating and connecting with people, is the most crucial part to creating a strong, long-lasting community of people.

Last Thoughts

From my personal experience, an adviser is someone who you should incorporate in all of your updates. Keep them involved, and when you need him (and you know when having the assistance of professor is useful), someone is there. But do not rely on them. It is a student organization because it is run by students, and the drive of all of you will push you forward. If you need help with technical advice, just remember that you have the entire university to call on. Professors are always down to help student organization. Use them. Annoy them. Don't be afraid.

Writing a Constitution

Like any company, a constitution can act as the rules and goals of the company. Most of the time, a club can be filled with friends and even people you consider family. Although this is an AMAZING consequence of being a part of a passionate team, it can be hard to maintain a fair, healthy club if there is bias on the decision making. It is very important to write a draft up of the constitution and continue to modify by majority vote as the club moves through the semesters. As for my own organization, we made it a habit to have once-a-semester meetings to go over the constitution and suggest improvements/changes that we vote on together. It is very helpful to be able to keep emotion out of big decisions to steer the club toward the most successful path it can go. It is also common to review the entire constitution line-by-line at the beginning of each school year after recruitment and have each members sign to it saying they will abide by what is written by and for the chapter above.


Your individual school most definitely has other organizations, and most likely a center or staff that are there just for the upkeep of student organizations. There is a fo-sure chance that they will have a beginner template for writing a constitution which you should definitely utilize. But mind you, spend the time to make a constitution that is actually useful up-front. It saves so much pain-ache and even heart-ache in the future, possibly after you are gone.

Team Longevity

Comparatively, it is fairly easy to start a successful club at your University compared to keeping it going after you leave. All of us are at school temporarily, and it can be EXTREMELY difficult to ensure the continuation of your group after the founder/leader is gone. As of this writing, it is a primary objective of this year for myself at UNH. BUT! There is hope. An entire wiki page details the tips/strategies to help with this. I also have a bit of information below on successful club structures that improve the overall fluidity of chapter management/leadership.

Board Structures

An organization should not be a dictatorship. That means not only all the power is on one person, but all the critical information for club management is in one persons brain. Creating a board that assists in all the different aspect of the club is a very useful strategy to spread the responsibility to many people (the officers). It is also important to note that the board should NEVER contain all seniors, but people from all different years to make sure that each year only a couple people graduate out of the board. It is common to have a 'training' period for new people taking the board roles a few months before graduation so they have some time to settle into the new responsibilities.

Example Board Structure

Below is a graphic of the UNH SEDS board structure, and their expected responsibilities. If you look closely, you can see that we are currently looking for 2 people to take positions on the board. Those positions were seniors and agreed to step down at the start of the year to train and implement underclassmen to take on those roles while they focus more on the engineering. As your chapter develops and becomes more organized, this shouldn't ever be needed as you should always elect a good mix of people onto the board each March or April.

Example of a board structure that leads the direction of the club while taking on main organization responsibilities.

The constitution should integrate closely with this media detailing the roles of the board, and how they work together to lead the club forward through each year. For each of the board positions below the President, a few of them have other structures on who are under them in terms of managing and assisting with primary tasks. For example, the lead engineer position breaks up into the engineering leads for the specific engineering projects going on within the chapter. That can be seen more within the Engineering Management page in the Projects section on this Wiki.

Becoming a Chapter within SEDS USA

You have done it, you have found club members, gotten an adviser and written a constitution now how do you become an official SEDS chapter?


The first step is to reach out to the Chapter Expansion Manager and the Chair of the Council of chapters via email and sign up officially on our SEDS website.

You will also be required to provide this form the information to be filled include:

  1. University [SEDS Chapter Name] (ie CU Boulder [CUSEDS] )
  2. Chapter Email
  3. President
  4. President’s Email
  5. VP/ CoC Representative
  6. VP/CoC Rep’s Email
  7. Chapter Advisor
  8. Chapter Advisor’s Email
  9. Election time for new board
  10. Website
  11. Facebook Page

These details are required in order to facilitate communication between SEDS USA and member chapters.

Dues & Bylaws

You will be given access to the Bylaws sections on Chapter Responsibilities and Chapter Dues. Chapter Dues are $50 per chapter. All links and significant documents such as the SEDS-USA website, meeting notes and the SEDS slack are listed here in the Chapter Reference Doc.

Council of Chapters

Upon filling out the required information, you will be reached out to by by the Chair of the Council of Chapters and Chapter Expansion Manager to have a Welcome to SEDS e-meeting alongside follow-up documents to establish your chapter. These include:

  • Subscription to SEDS Newsletters
  • How to start a SEDS Chapter Document
  • Access to the SEDSChapter Slack Line
  • Access to the SEDS CoC Social Media
  • SEDS Bylaws

Point of Contact

Ian Burrell
    Lauren Welsh