Students win free trip to Calif. to present their work at NASA planetary science conference
A team of three seniors and two juniors from Bellaire High School will be presenting its findings to professional scientists this summer, after winning the annual Exploration of the Moon and Asteroids by Secondary Students (ExMASS) contest.
The ExMASS contest, which is managed by the Center for Lunar Science and Exploration and administered at the Lunar and Planetary Institute (LPI) in Houston, challenges students to research an idea in either lunar science or asteroid science.
The Bellaire team, which consists of Sue Anne Davis, Kevin Nguyen, Jennifer Wang, Afton Widdershins, and Steven Zhou-Wright, discovered evidence of an asteroid that had broken up in the solar system’s ancient past, and named it “Zhuque” after a legendary red bird from Chinese mythology. They chose Zhuque both in deference to the naming conventions of celestial bodies and as a tribute to the school’s mascot, the cardinal.
After learning their research project was one of only four finalists from across the country, the students presented their findings to a team of judges and were declared the winners. As a part of their prize, the team will get to travel for free to California this July, where they will present their findings a second time before scientists at the Exploration Science Forum, which is held at the National Aeronautic and Space Administration’s Ames Research Center in the Silicon Valley.
“I am so proud of the work the team has done,” wrote Bellaire High School science teacher and mentor Jimmy Newland on his blog. “What they put together for the judges showed just how creative high-schoolers can be when asked to do real science. None of these kids were even out of high school yet, but here they were showing off fantastic work. And the [LPI] advisor seemed to think they might have actually found something.”