Performing for the first time at the NASA-backed InSPIRESS competition on Dec. 11 in Huntsville, Ala., Palmetto Scholars Academy took home a first-place award in one category and nearly won the overall title. The students have come home determined to make their next trip a championship run.
InSPIRESS is the Innovative System Project for the Increased Recruitment of Emerging STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) Students and was created by the University of Alabama Huntsville as an outreach project that provides the opportunity for high school students to develop and design a scientific payload to be accommodated on a spacecraft which is designed by undergraduate students in the UA Huntsville IPT project. High school students collaborate with the undergraduate engineering students to understand the engineering requirements, the design process, and the role a customer plays in design. InSPIRESS teams compete for selection by the undergraduate engineering teams.
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory also is involved in the project, providing the basic problem for teams to solve – how to get a payload dropped onto the Saturn moon of Titan and then deploy a high-altitude balloon that will transmit data back to earth.
The Lowcountry students from PSA, led by faculty advisor Kellye Voigt, earned first place in Payload Concept Proposal and finished 1.1 points short of taking home the overall championship.
Members of the PSA team included: Kayla Capitan (Clements Ferry), Aidyn Trubey (Clements Ferry), Jeffrey Ryan (Mount Pleasant), Kyle Lamoureux (Summerville), Simon Kubrynski (North Charleston), Isaiah Stapleton (Charleston), Nathan Camp (Hollywood) and Jordan Lee (Summerville).
“It was an exciting experience to be able to present our proposal and compete so well against more experienced teams that have access to better resources than we do,” Voigt said. “It was nice to see that our science was better than everyone else. Now that we’ve seen where we lost points during the presentation, we can fix what’s in our control to give us a much better chance to win.”
As an example, Voigt said while her team raided a local craft store in order to create a mock-up of its concept, other teams had access to 3D printers to create a cleaner look. Voigt said finding a sophisticated 3D modeling system and printing capability will be a key as the next competition cycle begins in January.
A second team of freshmen and sophomores competed in the Division B competition and finished second in Payload Concept Proposal. Voigt said she was told that they performed better than any underclassman team ever had, but because of the calculus involved, the competition favors juniors and seniors. PSA’s second team includes Jake Monsky (Summerville), Ryan Strauchon (Johns Island), Zachary Amerson (Hanahan), McKoy Floyd (North Charleston), Ben Walsh (Summerville), Cecilia Levay (Hugee) and Mike Furlong (Charleston).
Any organizations interested supporting PSA’s Mission Design team can contact Voigt at the school at 843.300.4118.
For more information on the program, visit the InSPIRESS web page at http://www.inspiress.org/InSPIRESS/Home.html.