Hill Country College Prep Engineering Class Wins NASA TechRise Student Challenge

January 31, 2024 - An engineering class of eight students from Comal ISD’s Hill Country College Preparatory High School won a spot in this year’s NASA TechRise Student challenge on January 23.

Their proposal for a high-altitude balloon experiment, titled “Bit Flips and Solar Radiation,” will now become a reality with a prize of $1,500 and the assistance of NASA technical support and engineering advisors.

“I am very proud of these students and excited for them to see their vision become reality,” says Louis Cavallaro, an engineering and physics teacher at HCCPHS. “We have four months to build it, and the students will be assisted by an engineer from NASA. It is going to be a great opportunity.”

The eight 11th-grade students are enrolled in Cavallaro’s engineering design and problem-solving class and work well together. They include Moises Alvarado, Jacob Bautista, Isabella Beacham, K Greenhill, Edith Lujan, Madz Patten, Emma Prizevoits and Sasha Williams.

“They have impressed me,” Cavallaro says.

The students’ experiment is to write a program which will check and guard computers and systems including different levels of protection over hard drives as they are exposed to cosmic radiation and high-altitude on their way to the Moon and other planets.

Students from across the nation were challenged to develop a science or technology experiment idea for one of two NASA TechRise flight vehicles: a high-altitude balloon with approximately four hours of flight time at 70,000 feet and exposure to Earth’s atmosphere, high-altitude radiation and perspective views of the planet; or a rocket-powered lander that will fly for approximately two minutes at an altitude of 80 ft over a test field designed to look like the Moon’s surface.

A total of 60 winning teams were selected to build their proposed experiment: 30 for each category. The students from HCCPHS were among the winners in the high-altitude balloon experiment category, and the only team in Texas and in the San Antonio area to win. Another team from Missouri City is representing the state in the second category.


-Pictured are students from Hill Country College Preparatory High School who won the NASA TechRise Challenge. Front row from left is Isabella Beacham, Edith Lujan, Emma Prizevoits and Sasha Williams. Back row from left is teacher Louis Cavallaro, Moises Alvarado, Jacob Bautista, K Greenhill and Madz Patten.


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