Four young women from White Cloud once again rise to the occasion
Photos by Lil De Laat
Story by Ken DeLaat
For the second year in a row a team of White Cloud Middle School students have won a national NASA STEM competition known as the TechRise Student Challenge.
Brynlee Plouff, Lily Ulmen, Gianna Fessenden, and Addison Boomgaard are the foursome who have not only made the cut for inclusion into the project last year but pulled off a repeat by being accepted for the second straight year.
TechRise, in its third year, is a STEM challenge for 6th -- 12th graders that offers students the invaluable opportunity to design and test their own innovative solutions for space exploration and the study of Earth while getting hands-on insight into the payload design and flight test process. This inspires a deeper understanding of space exploration, Earth observation, coding, electronics, and the value of test data.
This year’s challenge was to design a science or technology experiment that could be tested on either a NASA-sponsored high-altitude balloon flight or rocket-powered lander. The White Cloud Middle School students’ experiment, titled Rocket Fusion, will be tested on a rocket-powered lander. The students will now work through the remainder of the school year building out their experiments with the support of professional engineers.
The four young women from Ms. Sherry Claflin’s science class will once again be working with NASA officials through the rest of the school year to create their project in preparation for a flight test this summer.
Last year their model was used to test Co2 levels in the atmosphere while going over land forms.They showed me the project that was sent to NASA to be used on one of their balloons and reported they ended up receiving over 350 pages of data from the project.
Brynlee Plouff drew up the schematic of what the project would look like, Lily Ulmen had the idea for the CO2 part, Gianna Fesseden’s task was coming up with why the experiment was important and Addison Boomgard put together how this was going to be done and how the data was to be collected.
“We started out with an empty little plastic box and they had to put it together and make it work.,” said Ms. Claflin, “They wired it, soldered it, checked connections and coded it. It took a lot of research because they had to come up with it on their own.
“The girls spent the semester meeting weekly with a NASA scientist and engineer. They spent extra time with Tyler Hurt, our NASA engineer last year and the four showed some serious dedication to the process as they needed to give up a lot of extra time including giving up lunch time and after school time to put this together.
“Then we found out in January that the same team had won again.”
The four students have been practicing their teamwork beyond the classroom. Each is involved in a sport or two and have absorbed the power of collaboration.
“We learned the importance of teamwork and how to come together and problem solve. If someone struggles then we’re going to all work through it together,” said Addison.
We asked if the experience had influenced what they might want to do later in life.
Gianna was caught up in the engineering aspect of the project and could see herself pursuing it as a field while Lily thought she might want to look into being part of the Space Force.Brynlee has enjoyed the projects, however she has a yen to someday work with animals and Addison could see herself going into teaching to follow a desire to work with kids.
In the meantime the quartet will once again have a lot on their plate as they pursue the end product of their second trip into space.
I asked them a bit about their school.
“I think it’s cool that we were chosen. We’re just a small town and there might be people who don’t think a lot about White Cloud but we’re the only school in the state to get this,” said Addison.
And do you four like this school?
“We love it!:” they said in unison.
I also asked about their teacher.
“We wouldn’t be here right now in this project if not for her,” said Gianna.
I also asked for one word to describe their teacher.
“Hardworking, helpful, outgoing, amazing.”
The four seem destined to achieve whatever goals they have set for themselves. They have learned the power of teamwork, the payoff of perseverance and the magic of mentoring.
And gained a good deal of appreciation for the challenge Ms. Claflin has gifted them with.
Well done Ms. C.
And well done Brynlee, Lily, Gianna and Addison.
You certainly inspire hope for the future.