Weekly roundup: Westminster High students soar with NASA TechRise Challenge, local pentathlon teams bring 64 medals home, and more

Astro26 Ryan's Rangers from Westminster High School's MERITS program
(Photo courtesy of the Huntington Beach Union High School District)

Students from Westminster High School’s MERITS program are diving headfirst into the NASA TechRise Student Challenge.

This spring, these scholars are channeling their passion for science and technology into a high-flying experiment set to launch aboard a rocket-powered lander as part of a nationwide competition.

The MERITS program, a specialized honors program that integrates math, science and technology, has primed these students for the Future Engineers NASA TechRise Student Challenge. When junior Ryan Dam recognized an opportunity to apply their classroom lessons to practical innovation, he, along with his teacher Huy Pham, gathered their team, Astro26 Ryan’s Rangers, to craft a submission.

As one of the 60 teams nationwide selected for the TechRise Challenge, the MERITS scholars will test their experiment in a payload, which is essentially the equipment or instruments carried aboard the rocket-powered lander. Their experiment is designed to analyze how moon dust affects lidar imaging. Short for “light detection and ranging,” lidar is a remote sensing method used to examine the surface of the Earth.

The team, comprising students from freshmen to seniors, has been diligently working since February on algorithms, electronic components, light sensors and infrared technology to ensure that their payload is fully prepared for the mission.

“This project has allowed everyone in our team to further their knowledge and techniques, and has fostered a team of all grade levels aiming to work together to find solutions,” Ryan said.

Astro26 Ryan’s Rangers are now preparing to send their finalized experiment to NASA for testing over the summer, with results expected in the fall.

“As excited as the kids were to find out they get to work on their own NASA-inspired project, the bonus prize is that they get to be mentored by engineers, learn from experts and practice their skills in a real-world project,” Pham, MERITS program coach, said.

Here are the other stories we’ve been following this week:

Fairmont Private Schools’ Historic Anaheim Campus eighth-graders
Ruby is recognized by the Orange County Board of Education for her winning essay in the 10th annual Jack R. Hammett Memorial Day Essay and Art Contest.
  • Los Amigos High in the Garden Grove Unified School District celebrated its commencement Wednesday at Monsoor Stadium, presenting diplomas to 338 seniors. They are among the district’s 3,150 graduates, including 60 from the Early College Academy Program and many heading to the UC and CSU systems.
  • The Newport-Mesa Unified School District officially commenced its graduation season this week, honoring Early College High School’s record-achieving seniors and STEP program graduates in Costa Mesa ceremonies.
  • The Newsom administration resolved a dispute with K-12 education groups over multiyear funding — deferring billions for a few years, pending legislative approval — to meet the June 15 deadline, spare TK-12 schools from major cuts and comply with Proposition 98.

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