NASA selected four sophomores and a junior from Holy Trinity Episcopal Academy as one of the only 60 winning teams in the nation for its TechRise Student Challenge, which this year focused on designing an experiment to be tested on a high-altitude balloon.
The Student Challenge is open to students in grades six through 12 across the country and U.S. territories. This year’s winning teams encompass 500 students and 38 states and territories.
Rockledge resident Cash Luck, a junior, and sophomores Liam Walders and Charlie “CJ” Robbins, both from Merritt Island, and Viera sophomores Ben Kindem and Alex Fontanin will represent the Space Coast when their experiment is tested on a NASA-sponsored suborbital flight.
"STEM is something I am looking to pursue in college and in my future career, so I am overjoyed to be able to take part in a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that furthers my insight into what this field has to offer,” Luck said.
With an eye on possible practical applications, the team hypothesized that the plastic filaments used in 3D printing could provide a practical, cost-effective and reusable alternative to the standard radiation-resistant materials that protect astronauts and their spacecraft from radiation emitted from space.
The Holy Trinity team includes members of the school’s Robotics Team and the Engineering and Applied Science Club. While they have previously engaged in hands-on experiments, this is their highest profile project to date.
Their theory will be tested in a spaceflight-like environment of the uppermost atmosphere. The group is pumped about the broad impact their experiment could have on the aerospace industry and are already discussing the possibility of taking the concert to aerospace engineering firms.
"I am most looking forward to having the ability to personally test an idea that could transform the aerospace industry as a whole by creating a cheap and easy to manufacture radiation shielding,” Walders said.
Whatever the results, the Challenge should open a world of career possibilities for participating students.
“This engineering challenge will not only generate excitement among our student body, but will also inspire a generation of future engineers and scientists who will impact our world and the cosmos,” said Daniel Angotti, a science teacher at Holy Trinity’s Upper School.