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This Clovis North Student Is Ready for a Mission to Mars
gvw_nancy_price
By Nancy Price, Multimedia Journalist
Published 1 month ago on
March 20, 2024

A Clovis North student is a semifinalist in NASA's "Power to Explore" challenge. (NASA graphic)

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Clovis North senior Sabrina Affany is already on NASA’s radar — or her essay is, at least. NASA is conducting a national STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) competition, the Power to Explore Challenge, and asked students in grades K-4, 5-8, and 9-12 to learn about radioisotope power systems and then write a 250-word essay about how they would conduct an RPS-powered space exploration mission.

(While we earthlings typically turn to Duracell or Energizer to power our stuff, NASA has used RPS as a type of nuclear “battery” to explore dark, dusty, and harsh regions of the solar system for decades.)

 

Check out earlier School Zone columns and other education news stories at Nancy Price’s School Zone Facebook page.


Maybe it’s not a complete surprise that the Fresno teen is one of 15 high school semifinalists in the competition, since in addition to studying at Clovis North she spends half her school day at the Center for Advanced Research and Technology. CART is shared by Clovis and Fresno unified students.

Sabrina’s essay proposes exploring the Arsia Mons Caverns of Mars, using a roving robot that would be powered by isotopes to collect data. And she wants to help build it.

Underground lava tubes in the volcanic region could provide protection from the planet’s harsh weather and surface level radiation, Sabrina wrote. “To collect topological, environmental, and atmospheric data on these caverns, I propose we send a rover to go and explore the area. Since the majority of the mission would be underground, solar energy wouldn’t be a feasible option for powering the rover.

“This is where the RTG (radioisotope thermoelectric generator) comes in. The heat energy collected from radioactive decay should be enough to provide the rover with the power it needs to traverse the tunnels as well as collect and send/store data back to NASA. I have a sufficient amount of knowledge with the electronics and mechanical design that goes into building a rover and would be able to contribute in many different ways. This mission could potentially shape the future of what options we have for sending people to Mars. The data resulting from this mission would not only benefit the United States, it would push forward a new age of exploration for the entire world.”

On April 8, the day of the total solar eclipse across the U.S., NASA will announce the finalists in each category. The 45 semifinalist essays were chosen from 1,787 submissions that came from 48 states and Puerto Rico.

Speaking of Space …

Hey students and teachers — have you ever wondered “what it would look like if we lived in space?” That’s the theme of the second annual International Space Art & Poetry Contest hosted by astronaut John Shoffner. The goal of the competition is to emphasize the “A” in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics).

Students and educators can submit their visual art and poetry until the April 5 deadline. For more information and to submit artwork, go to spaceartcontest.com. Eight category representatives will receive special recognition from the International Space Station in addition to receiving physical prints of their creation sent down from space. Entries will be categorized by age division (students ages 5-8, 9-13, 14-18, and a newly added educator category), as well as by genre (visual art and poetry).

Last year’s inaugural competition had more than 930 submissions from 26 countries. Shoffner, surrounded by floating colorful artwork and written creations inside the cupola, announced the category representatives during the Ax-2 mission last May.

 

Meet County’s New Spelling Bee Champ

Aarav Mann

Fresno County has a new Spelling Bee champion. Aarav Mann from Sanger Unified’s Washington Academic Middle School will be heading to Maryland in May to compete in the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

Aarav correctly spelled “neuropathy” to take the top prize on Wednesday in the Fresno County Superintendent of Schools Fresno County Spell Off competition. The second and third place finishers in the junior high division were Meghan Pebbili from Clovis Unified and Anna Avent from Western Sierra Charter Schools.

In the elementary division, the top three finishers were Warren Li from Clovis Unified, AJ Guenthner from Kingsburg Elementary Charter, and Leo Wu from Carden School of Fresno.

Aarav and Warren will proceed to the state Spelling Bee. The state and national competitions are not connected.

SJ Memorial Alum Nominated for TV Award

Zachari Levy

San Joaquin Memorial High School alumnus Zachari Levy will find out next month if he and 11 University of Miami classmates have won an award from the Television Academy Foundation for their work on “Flashpoint Florida: Midterm Election Special.” Levy, who is majoring in political science with a minor in journalism and public relations, was a writer on the project.

“Flashpoint Florida” was a special presentation by the student-run TV station UMTV on the 2022 midterm elections in Florida, including the race for governor between Ron DeSantis and Charlie Crist and the battle in the Senate between Marco Rubio and Val Demings.

It has been nominated in the news category of the Television Academy Foundation’s 43rd College Television Awards. The winners will be announced April 13 in Los Angeles.

The competition is designed to emulate the Emmy Awards. The foundation is the charitable arm of the Television Academy, which doles out Emmy awards each year.

These Schools Are State Models

Four Fresno County continuation high schools were among 31 selected as California’s Model Continuation High Schools for 2024, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond announced earlier this month.

The schools, which serve students at risk of not graduating, were selected because of their instructional programs, flexible scheduling, and guidance and counseling services.

Kings Canyon High School in Reedley got particular notice from the Department of Education, which said in a news release that it “is a shining example of how amazing small schools can be. The campus is filled with staff who put the needs of the kids they serve first. Their genuine care and intentional relationship-building have created an authentic culture that is safe, inclusive and supportive. The community partnerships and holistic supports for students and families set the bar for alternative education schools in California. Administration ensures that staff have access to appropriate and timely professional learning opportunities while also encouraging teacher autonomy.”

The three other local schools recognized are Cambridge Continuation High School, Fresno Unified; Gateway Continuation High School, Clovis Unified; and Pershing Continuation High School, Central Unified.

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Nancy Price,
Multimedia Journalist
Nancy Price is a multimedia journalist for GV Wire. A longtime reporter and editor who has worked for newspapers in California, Florida, Alaska, Illinois and Kansas, Nancy joined GV Wire in July 2019. She previously worked as an assistant metro editor for 13 years at The Fresno Bee. Nancy earned her bachelor's and master's degrees in journalism at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. Her hobbies include singing with the Fresno Master Chorale and volunteering with Fresno Filmworks. You can reach Nancy at 559-492-4087 or Send an Email

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