73°F
weather icon Clear

Five Las Vegas-area students winners in NASA competition

Five Las Vegas-area students are winners of this year’s NASA Optimus Prime Spinoff Promotion and Research Challenge.

The students won the competition’s “Mission 2” challenge, open to third- through 12th-graders. There were three divisions: elementary, middle and high school. They were recognized in June during an awards ceremony at Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, where they also met NASA scientists and toured facilities.

Students were asked to “redesign a NASA technology and use it to solve a societal problem,” NASA said in a May announcement.

Henderson 11-year-old Samuel Kyong created “The Green Balance,” which uses waste produced by fish to fertilize plants. The project focuses on using “hydroponics as a filter for environmental volatile organic compounds,” according to NASA.

A four-person team — including Mia Lorenzo, Sarah Kim and Mirai Molde — took top honors in the high school category. A fourth team member declined to be named.

Their project is “Clean Dine Dishes,” which are dishes that clean themselves.

Mia is going into 12th grade at Clark High School in Las Vegas, Sarah is going into 11th grade at West Career & Technical Academy in Las Vegas and Mirai is going into 11th grade at Coronado High School in Henderson.

This year’s research challenge was the first open to students from the United Kingdom, in addition to the United States and Canada, research challenge program manager for Goddard Space Flight Center Erin Majerowicz wrote in a statement. She wasn’t available for a phone interview.

More than 2,400 students registered for the challenge. Competitors created Adobe Spark pages to explain their ideas through text, photo and video. A NASA panel judged the entries.

The competition began in 2010 for third- through eighth-graders. A high school division was added in 2014.

Here’s a look at the projects:

Samuel Kyong

Taking top honors in this challenge is becoming a Kyong family affair. Samuel’s older brothers, Thomas and Daniel Kyong, were part of a team that won in 2018 in the high school division. Their project dealt with how to extract algal blooms.

Samuel watched his older brothers work on their project and wanted to enter this year’s competition. It wasn’t a school assignment.

“It was just for fun,” he said July 25 at the family’s home in the MacDonald Ranch area of Henderson.

As a fourth-grader at Lamping Elementary School in Henderson, Samuel did a hydroponics project for the school science fair. Last school year, he pursued aquaponics for his fifth-grade science fair project and earned first place in the school competition and third at regionals.

He expanded upon his aquaponics project for the NASA competition.

Many volatile organic compounds in the air can cause bad things to happen with our immune system, Samuel said, adding certain plants in aquaponics systems can clean the air.

During the intital phase of Samuel’s aquaponics project — which was set up upstairs at home — “the whole house would smell,” Samuel’s father, Steve Kyong, said, until the plants grew in size and cleaned the water.

“Then, the water was amazingly clear,” Samuel’s mother, Sujin Kyong, said.

Samuel, who’s going into sixth grade at Webb Middle School, said his favorite subjects in school are reading, math and science. As a fifth-grader, he broke Lamping Elementary’s record for Accelerated Reader points.

As a hobby, Samuel enjoys building with Legos.

“I love creating things,” he said.

Mia Lorenzo, Sarah Kim and Mirai Molde

Sarah and Mirai met with the Las Vegas Review-Journal on Aug. 2 in southeast Las Vegas to talk about their project. Mia participated via FaceTime live video; she was on the East Coast for a summer camp.

It’s not a coincidence the local teens knew of the NASA competition.

“We heard about it through last year’s winners, which are also from here in Las Vegas,” Mia said.

This year’s four-member project team formed as a result of overlapping social circles. Their project focused on superhydrophobic dishes, meaning ones that are difficult to get wet. Their concept was to modify the surface of a dish to help food or debris fall off more easily.

It’s also a way to help tackle environmental issues, Mia said, noting it reduces water use and pollution.

“With the technology, it looks very complex and hard to approach,” she said, but the team figured out how to apply it to everyday life.

Three of the team members attended the awards ceremony in June in Maryland. Mia said she enjoyed learning about telescopes and satellites, and hearing other winners’ presentations.

Mia, Sarah and Mirai said they’re all interested in pursuing a career in the science field.

Contact Julie Wootton-Greener at jgreener@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2921. Follow @julieswootton on Twitter.

More information

Learn about Samuel Kyong’s project at spark.adobe.com/page/cHadCtL9sCQxB. See the high school team’s project at spark.adobe.com/page/98CdSaXVlxqUj.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Local Videos
Setup underway for Area 51 Basecamp
Setup is underway at the Alien Research Center in Hiko ahead of their Area 51 Basecamp event. Setup will ramp up over the next 2 days, with event taking place Friday and Saturday. (Mick Akers/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Las Vegas Fire Department introduces its new therapy dog - VIDEO
Blaze, a 5-month-old black lab and retriever mix, was introduced as the Las Vegas Fire Department’s new therapy dog on Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2019. Mayor Carolyn Goodman and Gov. Steve Sisolak met Blaze at Fire Station 1. (Katelyn Newberg/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
First case of vaping-related illness in Clark County
The Southern Nevada Health District is reporting the first confirmed case in Nevada of severe respiratory illness linked to e-cigarette products. (Renee Summerour/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
“Storm Area 51” creator hosts event in Las Vegas instead of Rachel - VIDEO
Matty Roberts, the man behind the “Storm Area 51” movement has been abducted to now host an alien-themed event in downtown Las Vegas.
Dry conditions and winds gusting up to 40 mph bring a red flag warning
Dry conditions and winds gusting up to 40 mph bring a red flag warning for much of Monday by the National Weather Service. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Southern Nevada is in a West Nile virus hot zone - VIDEO
Southern Nevada, along with Central Arizona and Southern California, make up a “hot zone” that is reporting the highest number of mosquito-borne West Nile virus cases in the country. The Southern Nevada Health District recently reported 28 cases of West Nile virus in Clark County. (Le'Andre Fox/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Pinkbox Doughnuts opens third store in Las Vegas area
Las Vegas-based Pinkbox Doughnuts, which opened its third store at 9435 W. Tropicana Ave., specializes in doughnuts such as the new Station Wagon, with Butterfinger; pink-velvet Pretty in Pink; and hybrid Glazed DoughCro Bites. Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal, with image courtesy of Pinkbox Doughnuts
Some of the best dog parks in Las Vegas - VIDEO
When taking them on walks just isn’t enough, there are plenty of dog parks sprinkled throughout the Las Vegas Valley where dogs can play and owners can get to know the other pet parents in their area. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Gail Hudson surprised with Teacher of the Year honor
Gail Hudson is surprised with recognition as Nevada's Teacher of the Year in the courtyard of Hummel Elementary on Monday, Aug. 26, 2019. (Amelia Pak-Harvey/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Silver State Heath CEO Ryan Linden - VIDEO
Ryan Linden, Silver State Health’s CEO and executive director, talks about the focus of the organization, which is to provide affordable mental health and medical care for low-income and underserved Southern Nevadans. (John Przybys/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegan part of the Harlem Globetrotters
Scooter Christensen, who grew up in Las Vegas, will play with the Harlem Globetrotters at The Orleans in Las Vegas Sunday, Aug. 25. (Mat Luschek / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Person struck and killed by a train near downtown Las Vegas - VIDEO
Police investigate after a person was struck and killed by a train near downtown Las Vegas near West Owens Avenue and Stocker Street on Wednesday. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Paul Browning Released from Ely State Prison - VIDEO
Paul Browning greets his mother, Betty Browning, after being released from Ely State Prison. Browning served 33 years on Nevada’s death row. (Rachel Crosby/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Mother upset over her child's cornea donation being sent overseas - Video
Lindsey LiCari, the mother of Ayden and founder of Ayden's Army of Angels, is upset that her child's corneas were sent overseas and was told that she would be able to see her son's eyes again. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Seven Magic Tires
“Seven Magic Tires,” created by Las Vegas artists Justin Favela and Ramiro Gomez, substitutes piles of tires for hefty boulders to recreate the scale model. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Tortoise Group of Las Vegas helps tortoises find homes
The Las Vegas Tortoise Group wants you to adopt a desert tortoise. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Warehouse fire in North Las Vegas
North Las Vegas Fire Department PIO Nino Galloway gives an update on the fire at a warehouse on Friday, Aug. 9, 2019. (Erik Verduzco/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Woman's memoir reflects on her fresh start in Las Vegas
Etta Baykara, 91, who plays accordion in a polka band, wrote a memoir that includes growing up on a farm to her move to California and then Las Vegas where she claims she is the happiest. (Erik Verduzco/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas pinball wizard Spittin' Jerry Kaczmarek
Jerry Kaczmarek, also known as “Spittin’" Jerry, talks about his days as a pinball hustler in Vegas in the 60’s and 70’s. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Behind the scenes at Broadacres Marketplace
Evelyn Sanchez, Broadacres Marketplace marketing and event director, talks about the offerings at the dynamic swap meet in Las Vegas. (Jason Bracelin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Teen talks about alleged sexual assault at Las Vegas grocery store
A 17-year old says she was groped and then sexually assaulted by a loss-prevention specialist at an Albertsons store in east Las Vegas. The subject's voice has been distorted to protect her identity. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Henderson officials tried to lure Arizona Diamondbacks from Phoenix
Henderson officials tried to lure Arizona Diamondbacks from Phoenix with four potential stadium sites in mind, including one behind the future home of the future Raiders headquarters. Discussions between the team and the city stalled out, but Henderson still wants to attract professional sports to the area.(Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Grasshoppers swarm Las Vegas Strip
The Las Vegas Strip is swarmed by pallid-winged grashoppers on July 25, 2019. The grasshoppers have infested the Las Vegas valley after an unseasonably wet winter and spring, experts say.(@365inVegas/Twitter)
Aviators splash pad lets fans stay cool
Las Vegas Ballpark’s splash pad area is the perfect place to keep cool while enjoying the game. (Cassie Soto/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Grasshoppers invade Las Vegas
The grasshoppers came out at night in northwest Las Vegas on Thursday. Lights at a local gas station attracted hundreds of the insects. (David Guzman/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
CCSD superintendent says dean positions will not be eliminated
Clark County School District Superintendent Dr. Jesus F. Jara discusses budget adjustments for the district after listening sessions with principals, teachers and support professionals. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Henderson rain
Rain falls in Henderson on Wednesday, July 24, 2019.
Monsoon season begins in the Las Vegas Valley
Rain dropped in Henderson on Wednesday morning as monsoon season begins in the Las Vegas area. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Henderson Fire Department on checking back seats in the heat - Video
The Henderson Fire Department talks about double-checking car seats in the Las Vegas heat to remember children who may be in the car. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Take the Red E Bike tour of Red Rock Canyon
The Red E Bike tour of Red Rock Canyon outside of Las Vegas starts at the visitors center for a three-hour, 17-mile ride. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Steve Meriwether talks about his son, who was killed by a drunk driver
Retired Metro sergeant Steve Meriwether talks about his son, Garrett Meriwether, who was killed by a drunk driver. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Earthquake might have caused Pahrump man's death
Officials in Pahrump believe that the recent Fourth of July earthquake caused the death of resident Troy Ray as he was working on his car. If true, it will be the first earthquake-related death in the state in recorded history, according to research geologist Craig dePolo. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Earthquake-related death reported in Pahrump
The Nye County Sheriff's Office investigated a man's death reported on July 9 that may have been related to a Southern California earthquake that occurred on July 4 and was felt in Southern Nevada. (Nye County Sheriff's Office)
Fire in Arts District in downtown Las Vegas
Fire in Arts District in downtown Las Vegas on July 6, 2019. (Angus Kelly)
10th Anniversary of Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health
The Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health is celebrating its 10th anniversary in the coming week. Director Marwan Sabbagh talks about what the center offers, what they've achieved and what is next in the work of degenerative brain disease. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
THE LATEST