Physics Students Win NASA Competition – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Physics Students Win NASA Competition

A team of HWS students, including Chris Demas ’17, Jeff Rizza ’16, Michelle Gomez ’16, Justin Partyka ’16 and Joe Carrock ’17, won top prize at the 2014 NASA/Montana Space Grant Consortium National Student Solar Spectroscopy Competition, in Bozeman, Mont.  

The team won the Grand Prize Overall award for their work in designing, constructing, calibrating, and using a spectroscope for the purpose of measuring the efficacy of sunglasses in UV light protection.

“It was really exciting for HWS to be able to attend a national conference such as the NSSSC and work alongside other students and professors who had the same passion for physics as me. I learned so much and I discovered my desire to further pursue research in my future,” says Demas.

The award for the team was a visit to the Rock On! program at NASA’s Wallops Flight Center, where they helped construct a scientific payload for a sounding rocket and attend the launch. The payload included small HWS mementos – small Hobart and William Smith pennants and each college’s alma mater. The items will be recovered and returned to the Colleges after their brief space voyage.

Competing against teams from across the country — including University of Texas at Brownsville, Montana State University, Harding University, University on Montana, College of Charleston and University of Southern Indiana — the HWS team also took the “Best Science Observation” award. 

“The entire experience was excellent. I learned an immense amount and made some great new friends along the way,” says Rizza. “Even without any sort of prize the project would have been well worth the time and effort. Winning made our efforts that much more rewarding, and being able to attend a NASA rocket launch workshop was simply an outstanding experience to take part in.”

The team was advised by Assistant Professor Ileana Dumitriu, Visiting Assistant Professor Joshua Nollenberg, and Dr. Peter Spacher, who have also successfully used the project to develop increased interest among students for physics and other sciences on campus.   

“Thanks go to NASA and the Montana Space Grant Consortium for putting on the competition and supplying the build grants for the instruments, Dr. Peter Spacher and Professor John Vaughn for obtaining the original build grant, as well as to the HWS Student Government for providing support to the students to cover expenses for travel to and from the competition, and to the Provost’s office for its support for faculty travel to and from the event,” says Nollenberg.