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Autumn leaves at NASA Glenn
A view of the two elements of Gateway - power and propulsion element (PPE) and the habitation and logistics outpost (HALO).

Glenn High School Capstones
Remote Sensing of Harmful Algal Blooms

NASA Glenn Research Center is always looking for dynamic new ways to connect students with the mission content of the Agency. The Office of STEM Engagement (OSTEM) has an interest in providing high school students with opportunities which they can pursue research in support of capstone projects based upon real NASA science and engineering mission content.

Visit NASA Glenn Office of STEM Engagement about Glenn High School Capstones
Remote Sensing of Harmful Algal Blooms

NASA Glenn Research Center conducts aerial remote sensing of harmful algal blooms to warn water filtration plants to enact more stringent filtering when harmful blooms are present. Aerial remote sensing is advantageous to satellite remote sensing that is limited by factors of resolution, on demand performance, cloud cover, and upgrades to instrumentation.

Aerial remote sensing is also advantageous to In Situ Water testing that is limited by sporadic and costly ship born measurements as well delayed results of shore measurements.

Capstone Summary

For this capstone, students will utilize an unmanned aerial vehicle with a camera system to detect the location of simulated harmful algae. If a quadcopter is utilized, students will design and fabricate a retrieval system that can be lowered and raised to capture a sample of the simulated harmful algae along with two cups of water from below the algae with minimal  disturbance to the water.

Test Rig Components and Specifications

The Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) can be a commercially purchased or student designed quad copter or fixed wing aircraft. UAV’s must, take off from the ground, utilize camera system for navigation, land on the ground, maintain a safe distance from any observer of at least ten feet behind the UAV when in flight. In addition, the UAV’s must be completely powered off when students retrieve the sample and must retrieve a sample of two cups of water from below the algae with minimal disturbance to the water.  It is recommended that students are compliant with the regulations set forth by Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA)

Key Dates

  • August 4, 2023 – Applications for the 2023-24 school year are open
  • September 22, 2023 – Fall application deadline, applications are due.
  • September 29, 2023 – Schools notified of fall application results
  • October 19, 2022, 9:00 a.m. –2:00 p.m. – Educator Professional Development (on-site and/or virtual)
  • October 26, 2023, 10:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. – Virtual Kick-Off with NASA Subject Matter Expert(s)
  • January 5, 2024 – Winter application deadline, applications are due
  • January 12, 2024 – Schools notified of winter application results
  • February 8, 2024, 10:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. – Virtual Subject Matter Expert Connection
  • April 25, 2024, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. – Capstone Culminating Event including student design presentations and corresponding lab tour on-site at NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio. Participating schools unable to attend and/or outside the region will have an opportunity to present virtually.

2023 – 2024 Application Process

To apply please complete both the NASA Gateway application and the Supplemental application form as follows:

To access the 2023 – 2024 NASA Gateway please click here.

To access the 2023 – 2024 Supplemental application form, please click here.

After downloading and completing the Supplemental Application Form, please save it and upload the completed form as an attachment as part of the NASA STEM Gateway application.  Both application forms must be completed to be considered for this opportunity.

Contact Information

Gerald Voltz
Education Program Specialist

Phone: (216) 433-6656

Glenn Research Center – Office of STEM Engagement