The sky’s the limit for Alta students with NASA

Friday, May 4, 2018
Grace Meier, Michael Ryherd and Michael Wylard at Galveston beach in Texas. / Photo submitted

Three Alta High School students did not quite make it to the moon, but they did get a trip to Texas recently to participate in the Regional Space Settlement Design Competition in Houston.

The three students, Grace Meiers, a senior, Michael Ryherd, a sophomore, and and Michael Weiland, a junior, were chosen for the unique opportunity based on their essays and teacher references for class performance.

“The three students were assigned to teams to form companies under the tutelage of two NASA engineers,” explained Mike Weber, their science teacher. “The companies designed proposals to present to a panel of current and former NASA engineers where the winning team then selected a representative group to compete in the international competition.” Meiers, Ryherd and Weiland competed with students from Texas schools.

The trip’s goal was to engage students in real-world scenarios to apply scientific principals as well as learn about working collaboratively on a team whose composition they have no control over, Weber said.

“What I enjoyed most about the trip was getting to work with students from other areas who are interested in science like me,” said Meiers. “Also just being surrounded by people who work at NASA and being able to learn from them was amazing.”

Meiers was part of the operational engineering group, which was in charge of agriculture and food. “We designed the hydroponic sustained for our space settlement, designed the agriculture wing and calculated how many crops we needed to sustain people on our settlement,” she explained.

“At first I thought I would be no help because there were so many intelligent people there,” she worried. But her biggest take-away from it was that “you don’t always need to be the smartest or best person in the team. Team work, communication and hard work is what gets the job done.”

Ryherd had the opportunity to learn more about the aerospace engineering industry, which is “pretty high up on the list” of his plans after graduation.

“The biggest thing I learned was how to work with people you don’t know,” he said, “and focus on the common goal and work tirelessly to get it done on time.”

“As a teacher, I enjoy giving the students a unique opportunity to work and collaborate with people they normally would have no interaction with,” Weber said. “The fact that students get to work with NASA engineers in a NASA facility is a once in a lifetime opportunity, and I am lucky to have been able to take the students.”