South Florida Teens Win 2012 NASA Ames Design Contest

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The 2012 NASA Ames Space Settlement Design Contest $5000 Grand Prize is awarded to six teens at Cypress Bay High School in Florida for the space settlement project "The Kon Tiki."

Kon Tiki team

The Kon Tiki project team and advisors

The kids on the grand prize-winning team might one day contribute to the design of a real spaceship, and when they do, I want a ride - Angela Ashley, Physics teacher

Six Cypress Bay High School students have recently won a $5,000 grand prize award in the 2012 NASA Ames Space Settlement Design Contest. Their space settlement plan, “The Kon Tiki,” was selected from 474 entries throughout 18 countries.

The “Kon Tiki” team -- Robert Gitten, Zared Schwartz, Samuel Tagger, Jacquelyn Linevsky, Eric De La Espriella, and Siobhan Buckley -- was advised by Cypress Bay High School Physics teachers Angela Ashley and Jeffrey Rose. Members of the team will attend the National Space Society 30th Annual International Space Development Conference in Washington DC May 24-28, 2012 where they will present their project.

“This group of future scientists gives me hope for the future,” says “Kon Tiki” advisor Angela Ashley. “We want the kids to get excited about the opportunities that science and technology offer. This year we have had great success. Our Science Bowl team made it to nationals, the Science Olympiad team qualified for states, our first tech robotics team placed 4th in the state and our first robotics team has qualified for worlds. The NASA Ames grand prize for the space settlement project is the icing on the cake.”

The annual NASA Space Settlement Contest, co-sponsored by NASA Ames and the National Space Society (NSS) is for 6-12th graders (11-18 years old) worldwide. The contest builds upon students’ natural fascination with space and space exploration. The founders of the contest envision that these students will one day make orbital settlements a reality.

The Florida teens began work on “The Kon Tiki” project the summer before the 2011/12 school year. Months of meetings, brainstorming and hard work resulted in the 84-page “The Kon Tiki” project report. The project includes schematics and narrative, replete with physics formulas, implementation scenarios and solutions to a wide range of outer space survival challenges.

Junior Robert Gitten discovered the contest through the NASA INSPIRE Online Learning Community. “He organized a group that loves imagining the potentials of space exploration,” says Jacquelyn Linevsky, who rendered the group’s “Kon Tiki” prototype using Computer-aided design. “It was amazing to see our project grow: the more we discussed problems and solutions and researched exploration architecture, the more complex “The Kon Tiki” became.”

“The Space Settlement Contest is a part of NASA’s educational effort to inspire the next generation of explorers,” said Al Globus, NASA scientist and one of the founding members of the competition. “The contest is designed to spark a student’s interest in math and science and to develop the ideas and skills that will make orbital colonies a possibility. It is all about training the people who will one day colonize the solar system.”

Cypress Bay High School Physics teacher Jeffrey Rose commends the team for spending the time needed to create a Grand-Prize winning project while balancing their demanding advanced-level school work. “The project took a lot of time and energy, and required the dedication, commitment and talent of the entire team. As a teacher it's very rewarding to see hard work pay off,” Rose says.

“The scientific and technological research that goes into endeavors like space exploration yields significant benefits here on Earth. It seems hypocritical to complain about the cost of the space program while enjoying advances in global communication, navigation and intelligence at the same time,” adds Rose.

Cypress Bay High School administration and parents of the teens on the “Kon Tiki” team are proud to point out that this accomplishment in a scientific competition is a much-needed counterpoint to news reports that American high school students are lagging in science and mathematics learning. The Program for International Student Assessment reports that among member countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, 15-year-olds in the United States rank 13th in science scores. Aggressive U.S. high school science curricula and enthusiastic teaching staff are empowering young scientists to dream big, and realize big achievements.

“I truly believe that our destiny lies among the stars,” says Rose. “One of my students might be the first person to step on Mars. That, alone, would be an amazing achievement; but, can you imagine all of the incredible discoveries that would come out of pursuing such an incredibly worthy goal such as that?”

The NASA Ames contest is supported by San Jose State University Foundation at NASA Ames Research Center and the National Space Society.

For more information about the Space Settlement Contest, visit:

For more information about the NASA Ames Research Center, contact:
Jonas Diño
NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, California
Phone: 650/604-5612 or 650/604-9000
E-mail: jonas(dot)dino(at)nasa(dot)gov

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Angela Ashley
Cypress Bay High School
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