Osbourn Park High School Students Win First Place in NASA Challenge

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NASA recognized Isabel Rojas and Devin Wanchoo, both rising sophomores at Osbourn Park High School, as the first-place winners in the high school category of the NASA “Dream with Us” Challenge.  

“The NASA challenge combined my passions for the outdoors, aerospace, and conservation. It was a chance to dream big without worrying about time limits or money,” said Wanchoo. 

This year, the challenge theme focused on responding to natural disasters with new aviation. Students aged 13 to 18 were tasked with enhancing NASA Aeronautics’ disaster response efforts by introducing new aviation capabilities. The designs and improvements focused on helping reduce natural disaster risks, mitigating the situation during a natural disaster, and/or rebuilding after a natural disaster has occurred.  

Rojas and Wanchoo designed sketches for a wildfire fighting drone called PushPak. In their design, the drone features thermal cameras to detect hotspots and missing persons. While the light detection and ranging camera will map out the area and assess the health of vegetation, providing data for preventative and rebuilding efforts. PushPak will be equipped with a holding tank that can be filled with extinguishing substances and fire retardant for prevention efforts. The drone will also be supplied with planting seeds and a distributor for rebuilding after wildfires. 

The drone uses solar-power to charge while flying and the dynamos (power-generating propellers) generate energy while flying. PushPak will also have input/output capabilities to assist emergency personnel with powering needed devices. Variable wings will allow this drone to be interchangeable, and a comprehensive communication system will allow it to communicate with people and warn animals in the affected areas. The drone will also have a data collection system to help with early detection. 

NASA formally recognized Rojas and Wanchoo recently during a virtual ceremony. 

“Winning the challenge made me feel that all the time spent working on this project was well worth it and the outcome aligned perfectly to show what it really means to dream big,” said Rojas.  

For more information on the NASA “Dream with Us” Challenge and the winners, please visit the NASA website. 

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