Someday, humans on Mars may explore the red planet on a human-powered rover. And they could have some Dallas high school students to thank for that.
A team from Dallas’ Parish Episcopal School has won first place at the 2022 international NASA Human Exploration Rover Challenge. The challenge involved 91 teams from around the world, including 58 colleges and 33 high schools. The Parish team won first place overall in the high school division, along with two other awards for Project Review and Videography.
Created own obstacle course for virtual competition
To win the 28th annual challenge, the team’s two drivers, Ryland Marshall and Christopher Graham, pedaled and steered their rover through a long obstacle course of the team’s own design—across bumpy, gravel-and-tire strewn terrain and pitched plywood levels that simulated rocky bodies in the solar system.
They also completed “mission assignments” on the course, simulating sample retrievals and spectrographic analysis.
Hosted by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center
The 2022 challenge was held virtually instead of at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center near NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.
“This year, students were asked to design a course that would mimic obstacles as if they were competing in Huntsville,” Aundra Brooks-Davenport, activity lead for the challenge at Marshall, said in a statement. “Ensuring team safety was a major factor in developing the design of their own obstacles. We’re excited about the virtual competition and the opportunity it provided our teams.”
Team built the rover from scratch
Each year, the Parish Episcopal team designs, fabricates, and builds a rover from scratch for the annual challenge, using advanced design and fabrication equipment in the school’s Walton Alford Welding Shed and Wheeler Family Woodshop. Both are housed in the school’s Design Den.
The Parish Episcopal team has won a number of awards from NASA in the past few years eight years, including the Neil Armstrong Best Design Award and Best Report Award in 2017 and 2018; the Telemetry Award and Best Report Award in 2016; the Neil Armstrong Best Design Award and Most Improved Team Award in 2015; and the Frank Joe Sexton Memorial Pit Crew Award in 2014.
Parish Episcopal is Dallas County’s third-largest private school, located on two campuses in Dallas near Midway Road and Spring Valley.
Parish Episcopal’s 2017 rover was displayed at The Perot
The team’s fifth-place 2017 NASA rover (above) was put on display at the Perot Museum of Nature and Science in downtown Dallas for one year. For that model, two drivers faced different directions. (It might be time for an updated display at The Perot, now that the team has one first place in the whole world.)
Other 2022 winners hailed from Mexico to India
The Parish team were the only winners from Texas at this year’s challenge. The first-place university winners were from Tecnologico de Monterrey in Xochitepec, Mexico. Other winners included STEM Engagement Awards for Decent Children Model Presidency School in Punjab, India, and the Instituto Tecnologico de Santa Domingo in Santa Domingo, Dominican Republic. The full list of winners is here.
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