By Samuel Schultz
A team made up of nine Chaminade high school science students have won the NASA TechRise Student Challenge.
Sophomore Antonio Savastano, who orchestrated the group’s proposal with guidance from Karen Kuntz, co-director of Chaminade’s science center, will receive a $1,500 grant to implement their project.
In addition to the grant, the group will be awarded an assigned spot on a NASA-sponsored commercial flight along with technical support during the experimental build phase from a NASA engineering mentor. The project focuses on creating an infrared sensor to measure the characteristics of the flame of a rocket. The sensor then uses a mathematical equation to see how much fuel is remaining.
“The main thing we’re looking at is the temperature of the flame to determine our fuel percentage”, said Antonio.
The idea for the project was formulated in October after Kuntz recommended the challenge to Antonio. It wasn’t until a month later that the proposal was submitted.
“We recently started our science research program. We have students meeting during the day to learn science research skills and pursue projects. I’m always looking for different competitions for the students to participate in,” Kuntz said. “The NASA one came up and I knew Antonio had a strong interest in space and NASA and I just thought it’d be a perfect fit,” said Kuntz.
“They’re doing real engineering with real engineers so that’s just a really cool experience,” she said.
Antonio agrees wholeheartedly.
“It’s an honor. Honestly, it’s one of my dreams come true. I want to go to NASA, I want to become an astronaut one day, and I see this as my first step of being there,” he said. “I’m so happy that there are so many other talented individuals here that also have a passion for this. I love exploring the unknown, which is what space flight allows us to do.”
Over the next few months, Antonio and his team will meet weekly with NASA TechRise engineer mentors to continue to build out his project and learn new lessons. Lessons include using microcomputers, wiring and soldering, along with coding. The sensor will launch on a NASA-sponsored rocket this summer.
The NASA TechRise Student Challenge invites teams of sixth- to 12th-grade students to design, build, and launch science and technology experiments on a high-altitude balloon flight and rocket-powered lander during the 2023-2024 school year. NASA encourages public, private, and charter school students in all the states and territories to form a team, brainstorm an experiment.
The challenge offers hands-on insight into the design and test process used by NASA-supported researchers. It aims to inspire a deeper understanding of the Earth’s atmosphere, surface features, and climate as well as space exploration, coding, electronics and the value of test data.