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James Clemens engineers orbit Europa for UAH win

Members of the award-winning James Clemens Engineering Team are Marcos Gonzalez, from left, Cody Eberly, Austin Bartlett, Reginald Williams, Zack Holcomb, Allen King, Justin Erickson and Cory Haralson. Not pictured is Eric Bean. (CONTRIBUTED)
Members of the award-winning James Clemens Engineering Team are Marcos Gonzalez, from left, Cody Eberly, Austin Bartlett, Reginald Williams, Zack Holcomb, Allen King, Justin Erickson and Cory Haralson. Not pictured is Eric Bean. (CONTRIBUTED)

MADISON – James Clemens High School Engineering Team earned first-place honors in their division at the InSPIRESS Europa Jupiter System Mission Final Review and Open House.

InSPIRESS abbreviates “Increased Recruitment of Emerging STEM Students.” (STEM abbreviates Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.) The University of Alabama in Huntsville sponsored the engineering design competition, with underwriting by NASA.

James Clemens won first place in the competition’s written and presentation portions, along with overall top honors. “The win is a big deal to us. This is our first time to win,” sponsor Greg Ennis said. Ennis teaches principles of engineering, along with engineering research and design at James Clemens.

Team members are seniors Austin Bartlett, Eric Bean, Cody Eberly, Justin Erickson, Marcos Gonzalez, Cory Haralson, Zack Holcomb, Allen King and Reginald Williams.

Eleven teams with about 100 students from five North Alabama schools competed at the InSPIRESS meet.

“Students were required to create a concept for a payload aboard an orbiter to travel to Jupiter’s moon Europa,” Ennis said. “The payload was required to complete a scientific objective and record and transmit the data for analysis.” As an objective, the team chose to analyze water plumes erupting from Europa’s surface for chemistry related to organic life.

During their semester-long project, the James Clemens students occasionally interacted with UAH engineering students.

For the meet at UAH’s Shelby Center, James Clemens presented their project to a group of scientists and engineers. UAH engineering students critiqued their written proposal.

At the center’s open house, they presented results from a community engagement activity at local elementary schools where they presented facts about NASA and Europa and performed a Mentos/soda demo to simulate Europa’s plumes. Their exhibit included a three-dimensional, printed mockup of their concept.

Matt Turner and P.J. Benfield were UAH contacts for the team.

Ennis was “very pleased, very happy” with his team. “They have worked hard. I was not surprised at their results,” he said.

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