Baylor Entry Wins NASA's TechRise Student Challenge
Pictured above are NASA TechRise Challenge team members and team leaders
Dr. Louie Elliott, Porter Stinson, Chris Yang, Jack Champion, Shriyaa Srihari, Finley Smith and Dr. Mary Loveless.

A team of Baylor School students will have the incredible opportunity to fly a payload on a suborbital flight as part of NASA’s TechRise Student Challenge.  

Led and mentored by Baylor faculty members Dr. Mary Loveless and Dr. Louie Elliott, seniors Porter Stinson, Shriyaa Srihari, and Chris Yang; and juniors Finley Smith and Jack Champion, submitted a proposal for funding and flight through the NASA TechRise competition last October.  On Thursday, Jan. 12, they learned via a virtual announcement that they have been selected as one of the 60 winning TechRise teams throughout the U.S.  As winners they will work with a TechRise advisory team who will help them build out their experiment in the coming months.   Their experiment will launch on the high-altitude balloon test flight in Summer 2023.

“It is such an honor for our students to have the opportunity to partner with NASA on this research project, and I am impressed and proud of their efforts,” added Head of School Chris Angel ’89. “I have no doubt that our students will learn a great deal from this experience and I look forward to following their progress.”

The challenge was open to students in grades six through 12 at American public, private, or charter schools, including those in U.S. territories. This year, winning teams include about 500 students representing 38 states and territories. Baylor was the only winner in the state of Tennessee. (See all winners here: Future Engineers: NASA TechRise Challenge)

"NASA’s missions of tomorrow are sparked by the accomplishments of the Artemis Generation today in classrooms across America,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “Through opportunities like the TechRise Student Challenge, young people are deepening their passion in science and technology, preparing to be the future innovators and pioneers who help humanity soar to new heights and unlock more secrets of the universe.”

Titled “Can Machine Learning Be Used in Low Earth Orbit to Characterize Methane Leaks?” the project originated in the Baylor Research Engineering Lab following discussions on methane links and its potency as a greenhouse gas.  The students in the team had several ideas that they were discussing while brainstorming this project,” said Mary Loveless, Director of Baylor Research and Lead Scientist for Engineering Research.

 “They were very passionate about using high-altitude technology to monitor aspects of a changing climate," added Loveless.  "Several were very interested in machine learning, as well, and they knew that this specific experimental set-up of a balloon at altitude for four hours would be ideal for imaging. After doing some research, they combined these thoughts to see if they could answer the question of whether machine learning can be used to characterize methane leaks by examining the thermal signature of methane plumes with a thermal camera. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and we are looking forward to seeing what kind of results we can obtain from this unique test environment, and this balloon flight offers one of the only ways to truly test this experiment.  This test would not have been remotely feasible for high school students without the TechRise Student Challenge. It truly is an amazing and exciting endeavor.”


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