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Nesbitt Discovery Academy group set to participate in NASA research project

WYFF 4 Greenville-Spartanburg 3/10/2023 Rashad Williams
Nesbitt Discovery Academy group set to participate in NASA research project © WYFF 4 Nesbitt Discovery Academy group set to participate in NASA research project

A few months ago, Nesbitt Discovery Academy's "Deep Space Club" noticed a national competition from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration that they felt they would be competitive at.

The opening for entry was into NASA's TechRise Student Challenge, which is a nationwide contest designed to engage students in technology, science, and space exploration. Selected teams will work together to build science and technology experiments in preparation for a suborbital flight test.

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The school, which is located in Asheville, has a history with NASA and its competitions since the Deep Space Club's inception around nine years ago, according to science teacher Greg Tucker.

"Our first group of students who came through worked with NASA scientists on a project that was actually going up on Artemis 1 that launched earlier this year," Tucker said. "We were the only high school that had a project and experiment on Artemis 1. Unfortunately, our experiment was one of the ones that did not send back data, so this is kind of redemption for this school and this club."

Nesbitt Discovery Academy was one of 60 winning teams for the second annual TechRise Challenge, but each team will have a specific data-related focus for an upcoming NASA project.

The Deep Space Club won $1,500 to build their experiments and an assigned spot to test it on one of two NASA-sponsored high-altitude balloon flights scheduled for this summer.

"The math, the engineering, the earth science, the chemistry, all of it together in one big project of their own design,” Tucker said.

Students were also granted an opportunity to receive help from NASA Engineers on a weekly basis. NASA's engineers are offering direct guidance on each team's projects.

“We ask them for a lot of advice, and we have a program where we can regularly contact them if we have more specific questions,” Sophomore Mitchell Cohen said. "What we can do with that data is write up an actual scientific paper on this, and we can talk about the various materials and their effect on blocking UVC. It’s so dangerous, but it’s entirely blocked by our ozone layer, so we don’t have to worry about it on earth, but in space travel and some high-altitude flights it becomes more of an issue.”

According to NASA, "Winning proposals address a wide variety of science and technology challenges, including evaluating the effects of climate change; protecting humans, electronics, and various materials against radiation; testing machine learning and computing techniques for space technology; and supporting human health on long-duration space missions."

Two high-altitude balloons will be launched by NASA this summer. Each balloon will carry 30 small boxes with experiments inside of each to collect data from the selected teams.

“Our experiment is testing several different materials for how well they block UVC light," said sophomore Devin Engelerecht.

The balloons will be launched at around 70,00 feet for up to four hours.

"We’re going to have a bunch of UVC sensors, or photodiodes, or the things that directly measure the UVC radiation," said junior Solomon Hartman. "We’re going to have photo resistors, which measure the ambient light around the sensors.”

Students in the club said they're excited for this opportunity and plan to apply what they're learning now to future careers in the field.

To learn more about this summer's two high-altitude balloon launches, click here.

To learn more about the experiment guidelines, click here.


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