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Competing in the NASA Human Exploration Rover Challenge at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama, the Parish Episcopal Rover Team is home with multiple awards and a top 10 finish.

Officially finishing 7th out of 44 high school teams and 11th overall, Parish’s time of 6:45 placed them ahead of such notable universities as LSU, Ohio State, Auburn, University Alabama Huntsville, Arizona State and Rhode Island School of Design.

Parish was awarded the Neil Armstrong Best Design Award for the best technical approach to solving the engineering problem of navigating the extraterrestrial terrain of the course. This coveted award honors the memory of Apollo 11 astronaut Armstrong, the first man on the moon. The team was the only school honored with two awards during the ceremony, also bringing home the award for Most Improved Rover in the high school division.

The Parish Rover Team has been preparing for this years event since the completion of their inaugural Rover challenge in 2014.

“We never stopped working on it; we’ve essentially been working on this year’s rover for two years, with last year’s design as our starting point,” said Jenn Makins, Director of STEM Education at Parish. “After the race, the team was already talking about next year and what they would like to do differently.“

Team member Whitney Wheeler, Class of 2017, is already excited about returning to the competition next year.

“I cannot wait to spend my entire weekend up at the school, covered in grease and lost in a mountain of receipts,” said Whitney. “It is such a learning experience and it is so great getting to see all of the other ideas and ways people create something with the same instructions as our team. This program has changed my life and I cannot imagine not being a part of it.”

The rover team utilized Parish's Design Den maker space to develop and build the entire project. The team took advantage of the new welding shed, the CNC router and the 3D printer to design and construct the race-worthy rover.

“This year I am most proud of how our veteran team members mentored and took care of the new members,” said Makins. “I believe it is also noteworthy that in this high-tech project, of the nine students that participated on our team this year, six are girls. We are breaking STEM boundaries and it is inspiring.”

The NASA event challenges students to create a lightweight, human-powered rover capable of performing in the demanding environments to be explored by future voyagers. The competition is designed to teach students to solve practical design and engineering problems and demonstrates NASA's continuing commitment to inspire new generations of scientists, engineers, technicians and astronauts. The students' innovative vehicles and hardware designs could help inform NASA's own development of rovers and other space transportation systems for future deep-space exploration missions.

After winning the most improved award from NASA, the Parish team had some insight into why this year was so remarkable.

“I think we were so successful this year because we had more experience going into it,” said Jake Vickers, Class of 2017. “Being in last year’s event gave us an opportunity to learn from and change what didn’t work for us. Last year we couldn’t get our drivetrain to work, so this year it was our main focus.

The 2015 Parish Rover team includes crew members Jake Vickers, Kiyah Willis, Byron Hameline, Whitney Wheeler, Jonathan Moebius, Madalyn White, Sophie Alford, Ema Zorzor and Katie Wall, and is led by Parish faculty members Jenn Makins, David Cribbs and Eric Pearle.  

This year’s event brought 95 registered student teams from high schools, colleges and universities across 18 states and Puerto Rico, as well as international participants from Germany, India, Mexico and Russia.

Full replays of the race are available on the NASA TV website, where media personnel and television crews provided continuous, streaming coverage of the event:

day 1 -

day 2 - 

For a complete list of award winners, click here.

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