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Metz named a Winning Team of NASA TechRise Student Challenge

January 27, 2022 – A team of students from Metz Middle SchoolNASA TechRise was selected as one of 57 winners in an inaugural nationwide challenge designed to attract, engage and prepare future science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) professionals. The winning teams of the NASA TechRise Student Challenge will gain real world STEM experience by building experiments that autonomously operate and collect data from the edge of space aboard a suborbital rocket or a high-altitude balloon.

NASA received more than 600 proposals from teams in grades sixth through twelfth hoping to win the opportunity to design, build then launch their experiment. Metz’s team, Purple Wind, was the only middle school team in the state to win and one of only two teams in the Commonwealth to be selected.

Carey Hancey, a science teacher at Metz, serves as the team sponsor. Purple Wind is comprised of both seventh and eighth grade students from her IMS Research classes.

She said the team’s concept came from an interest in Mars colonization. Since Mars is windy, the students wanted to research how wind could energize a LED light board to promote vegetation on the planet.

“As Mars encompasses a third of the gravitational pull as that witnessed on Earth, the students wanted to gather data on whether microgravity conditions would affect the luminosity of a LED light board,” explained Hancey.

As a winning team, Purple Wind will receive $1,500 to build their experiment and a NASA-funded spot to test it on a suborbital rocket flight operated by Blue Origin or UP Aerospace. While on the suborbital rocket, the experiment will have three minutes of testing in microgravity. Winners also receive a suite of materials for preparing their payloads, access to flight simulator software and technical support from experts. Developed experiments will be sent in later this year. Those experiments are expected to launch Spring 2023.

“The support from the administration and the school board was much appreciated,” Hancey said. “I am certainly pleased that this team was awarded this opportunity for academic enrichment and group work.  Not to mention the mentorship that will provide support and allow the students to interact with professionals!”

Administered by Future Engineers, the challenge aims to inspire students to seek a deeper understanding of Earth’s atmosphere, space exploration, coding and electronics, as well as an appreciation of the importance of test data.

“At NASA, we educate and inspire the next generation of scientists, engineers, and explorers,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “The TechRise Student Challenge is an excellent way for students to get hands-on experience designing, building and launching experiments on suborbital vehicles. I’m so impressed we received hundreds of entries from across the country, and I want to congratulate the winning teams. I can’t wait to see these incredible experiments come to life!”

Winning proposals included measuring greenhouse gases, space farm irrigation systems, lunar dust mitigation, exploring human health in space and understanding the effects of microgravity on physical phenomenon ranging from the behavior of waves in liquids to the effectiveness of ink jet printing.

A slate of nearly 500 volunteer judges, including teachers, NASA personnel and technology subject matter experts, offered their time, passion and expertise to review entries and select winners across a broad geographic distribution. Proposals were evaluated on criteria including the originality of their flight experiment idea, its impact on education and/or society and the quality of the build plan.

NASA’s Flight Opportunities program, part of the agency’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, manages the challenge with support from NASA’s Office of STEM Engagement. Flight Opportunities is based at Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California.