High school students from Maryland county schools will gather at DuVal High School, Seabrook, Md., on April 20 to compete in an engineering competition focused on NASA’s TIMED mission and sponsored by the agency’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

The competing teams are Perry Hall High School, Baltimore County, Eleanor Roosevelt High School, Prince George’s County and two separate student teams from the Howard County Applications and Research Laboratory.

Each year, Goddard hosts the engineering competition. Goddard provides NASA and industry scientists and engineers for the educational event. The competition focuses on student team’s knowledge of the engineering process to solve a set of hypothetical challenges that could be encountered with a space mission.

This year’s focus is on the Thermosphere, Ionosphere, Mesosphere, Energetics and Dynamics (TIMED) mission. During its two-year mission, TIMED will make measurements of the Earth’s mesosphere, lower thermosphere/ionosphere, a little understood region between 40 and 110 miles above the Earth where the air pressure is a thousand to a trillion times less than at sea level. The MLTI is a region between the Earth’s environment and space where the Sun’s energy is first dumped into the Earth’s atmosphere. The spacecraft also will obtain data on solar winds, density and temperature profiles. Scientists are interested in this region so that they can better predict its effects on communications, satellite tracking, spacecraft lifetimes and spacecraft degradation.

Each team consists of 3-6 students and one teacher. This competition provides the opportunity for students to gain a basic knowledge of the engineering process. The students are given a hypothetical problem to solve and then expected to integrate engineering, science and mathematics into their solutions.

The competition is held in two phases. The first phase ended in February. The round one hypothetical challenge involved a malfunction of the solar array panels. In this scenario, TIMED’s solar arrays did not deploy correctly after launch and one of the wings is stuck close to the body of the spacecraft. During this phase of the competition, student teams determined what methods could be taken to ensure that TIMED still fulfilled its science mission. The winners of the first round are invited back to participate in the final competition.

During the final competition, the teams are given another hypothetical problem to solve within a 90-minute timeframe. The students are not told what the problem is until the competition starts.

The teams are equipped with a laptop computer to do their calculations and make their recommendations. Later, the student teams present their solutions and recommendations to a panel of judges. The solutions are judged and a winning team is selected. The winning team receives a state-of-the-art engineering computer system. The runner up also receives an engineering computer system, and the other teams receive participatory awards.

The competition begins at 9:30 a.m. at DuVal High School. At 11:15 a.m., the student teams present their solutions to the panel of judges. The award ceremony takes place at the NASA Visitor Center on Soil Conservation Road at 2:45 p.m. Following the awards ceremony, the students are invited to tour the Goddard Space Flight Center.

This year’s engineering competition judges include: Bruce Campbell from Goddard; Dr. Sam Yee, David Kusnierkiewicz and Mike Butler from the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Laurel; and Dr. Frederick Oliver, Dr. Eugene Hoffman, and Dr. Dereje Seifu from Morgan State University in Baltimore.

The engineering competition is made possible through a partnership with Goddard, Morgan State University and the Baltimore Museum of Industry.

NOTE: Media interested in covering the event should arrive at DuVal High School, 9880 Good Luck Road by 9:30 a.m. on April 20. Media are invited to attend the awards ceremony at the Goddard Visitor Center as well.