Vinemont’s Team RHAD brings home historic win

Members of Vinemont High School’s InSPIRESS Team RHAD are, from left to right, Savannah Keel (lead design), Sadie Land (project manager), Faith Rusk (lead outreach), Kimberly Wilt (chief engineer), Angela Harris (assistant outreach) and Shannon Bridges (teacher). (Shannon Bridges)

VINEMONT, Ala. – Vinemont High School (VHS) scored a historic win on Friday, Dec. 9, at the University of Alabama at Huntsville’s (UAH) Innovative System Project for the Increased Recruitment of Emerging STEM Students (InSPIRESS) Division B competition. 

The only all-girls team competing in the NASA-funded high school STEM competition, VHS Team RHAD “won the awards for Online Outreach, Payload Concept Proposal (the written paper component of the competition), Open House (a poster session) and the overall first place trophy for the division. The team was the only all-girls team in the competition as well as the second smallest team and won the most awards out of any team in the competition,” noted Aubrey Savery of UAH’s STEM Projects Advancing Research & Collaboration (SPARC) Lab division of the Systems Management and Production Center (SMAP). 

“InSPIRESS is a UAH run, NASA-funded high school design competition,” Savery explained. “Teams compete to design conceptual scientific payloads to travel to different locations in the solar system. This year, as part of the ARISE Mission, the teams designed payloads to investigate Europa, a Galilean moon of Jupiter. The teams are also tasked with completing online and in-person outreach activities to engage their communities in STEM and space exploration.” 

VHS InSPIRESS Sponsor Shannon Bridges shared, “The team was presented with the ARISE mission from UAH.  ARISE stands for autonomous research investigating the surface of Europa.  The team had to pick a science objective that they wanted to study and they chose the Rhadamanthys Lineae.  The team wanted to look at the mineral composition of the lineae, depth of the water ice, radiation and soil erosion.  This research would look for life-supporting elements and if organisms were found how they are able to live in an extremely cold environment and not be affected by the radiation.” 

From there, Bridges said, her students took the wheel and began their mission. 

“The girls had to come up with a team name, design the payload, write a scientific paper about their mission, complete online outreach through social media and complete activities to our Vinemont community that discussed and promoted our mission to Europa,” said Bridges.  “The girls decided on Team RHAD (Researching soil erosion, heat flow, amount of water ice, and discovering mineral composition). Their slogan for the semester was Let’s Think RHADically because they had to think outside the box to complete their mission and design process.” 

She continued, “Their payload name in Boeotia after Greek Mythology.  It is made up of three payloads. The larger payload will house the major instruments and will land inside the Rhadamanthys Lineae.  The two smaller payloads will land on the outside of the lineae and measure the depth of water ice. They had five social media platforms that they used to inform their audience about their payload design and outreach.  They also completed six community events which included bottle rockets, straw rockets, coke and mentos, ice cream, liquid nitrogen and design a rocket.” 

The InSPIRESS competition began approximately 14 years ago and Vinemont High School has had an InSPIRESS team for 12 years. 

Bridges said proudly, “Out of the 14 years, this is the first all-girls team to win. Team RHAD won outreach evaluation (social media), Payload Concept Proposal (scientific Paper), Open House Session (about our outreach) and the Overall Winner for their division.” 

The competition provided the high school students the opportunity to further research and explore STEM fields, the value of teamwork and the power of presentation when presenting their research and design to the country’s finest engineers at NASA.  

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