NASA High School Competition Finalists Are Bringing Clean Water to Public Schools and Not Even Internet Trolls Can Stop Them

Friday, 04 May 2018 - 12:15PM
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Friday, 04 May 2018 - 12:15PM
NASA High School Competition Finalists Are Bringing Clean Water to Public Schools and Not Even Internet Trolls Can Stop Them
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Space programs gave us novelties like zero-gravity toilets and space pens... But are a few pieces of technology that most of society never gets to use really worth spending millions to blast people into orbit?

Actually, yes – you're probably just forgetting that NASA is also to thank for creating invisible braces, artificial limbs, scratch-resistant lenses, satellite television, and advanced long-distance telecommunications. Luckily, NASA's OPSPARC contest provides an excellent reminder of just how much the rest of Earth can benefit from NASA's space tech.

The OPSPARC contest challenges elementary, middle, and high school teams from across the country to create something new using old technology. Here's the official description: "Students are asked to use their imagination and creativity to identify NASA Spinoff technology in their everyday world... To display their research and ideas, students will use a combination of text, images, and videos, to create a Glogster Multimedia Poster. This poster will be submitted and the student ideas will be shared with NASA."

To break it down: students identify a problem, find a piece of NASA technology that can solve it, and outline how they'd modify old technology to fit the situation.

One team tackled the problem of alternative energy, while another proposed using 3-D weaving to create light, strong materials for everyday use. One team from Banneker High School proposed using pool-filtering technology developed by NASA to create a filter system for their school water fountains that would separate out harmful chemicals like lead and bromine – which is a persistent problem at Banneker with potentially dangerous consequences.

Unfortunately for the team from Banneker, the internet "is dark and full of terrors." The contest took a sharp turn into politics when the team – the only all-girl, all-black team to enter the contest – received an outpouring of social media support, as fans urged others to vote for the team using NASA's public voting system. This didn't sit too well with some bottom-feeding members of 4chan's /pol forum, which decided sabotage the public voting system and alter the results. In response, NASA closed public voting and will now rely on their pre-published rubrics to decide the winner of the contest.

On Thursday the mayor's office of Washington, DC, announced they are awarding the team with a $4,000 grant to continue their studies. No matter what NASA decides, the karmic scoreboard is officially Banneker: 4,000 – Trolls: 0.
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