Huntsville Center employee InSPIRESS students to explore space

Huntsville Center Public Affairs
Published May 22, 2014
Lori Cordell-Meikle

Lori Cordell-Meikle

Volunteers who participated in the 2014 InSPIRESS STEM outreach event each received a payload patch for their efforts.

Volunteers who participated in the 2014 InSPIRESS STEM outreach event each received a payload patch for their efforts.

The Innovative System Project for the Increased Recruitment of Emerging STEM Students is a Science, Technology, Engineering and Math outreach program based at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. InSPIRESS is a project under UAH’s engineering program. Participants in InSPIRESS are offered one hour of credit in the College of Engineering at UAH.

Huntsville Center employee Lori Cordell-Meikle, chief of the Internal Review Office, supported InSPIRESS by participating as a judge for the project’s Final Review presentations May 5 and May 15. Cordell-Meikle reviewed the formal engineering presentations for 11 teams in four divisions.

The InSPIRESS project provides the opportunity for high school students to develop and design a scientific payload to be accommodated on a spacecraft which is designed by undergraduate students in the UAH Integrated Product Team. This year’s event reached more than 350 seniors in 12 schools statewide.

Cordell-Meikle also participated as an InSPIRESS judge last year. However, she said she was still amazed at how each teach approached the challenge this year.

“The teams had 20 minutes to provide us with a presentation on their final designs and the activities they undertook over the semester to develop their payload. They also had to explain what they did once their payload arrived on the planet Venus. We received 10 minutes to ask questions of the student teams,” Cordell-Meikle said. “My job requires that I be very analytical so participating as an InSPIRESS judge has been a great experience for me. It’s amazing to see the level of technical experience the students have. I’m impressed with their projects -- every team did a wonderful job.”

The competitions are sponsored by the NASA Discovery/New Frontiers Office and coordinated by Dr. Matt Turner and Dr. P.J. Benfield, principal researchers in Modeling & Simulation, and Dr. Phil Farrington, a professor on the Industrial Systems Engineering faculty at UAH.

Benefield said he was very pleased with the volunteer turnout for this STEM event.

“STEM is very important for those in the private sector and the federal government right now. Our university wants to be at the forefront when it comes to inspiring the next generation of STEM professionals through innovative outreach programs,” Benefield said. “Getting the opportunity to help with InSPIRESS is a wonderful way for STEM professionals to mentor the next generation of STEM professionals. It also gives the students a chance to bridge their engineering knowledge as they prepare for college. They get an added ‘edge’ that helps them become more competitive and gain more technical knowledge.”

Benefield said InSPIRESS is a unique outreach project because of its collaborative element. High school students actually work with the undergraduate engineering students to understand the engineering requirements, the design process and the role a customer plays in design. InSPIRESS teams compete for selection by the undergraduate engineering teams. There is also an Open House Poster Session where student teams had to come up with a poster display explaining the community engagement activities they conducted during the semester.

Cordell-Meikle said she enjoys participating in the event because it is a great way to inspire students and to re-engage in the STEM imitative.

“The objective of the competition is to give the students some idea of what it is that scientists and engineers do so I’d definitely recommend that employees at Huntsville Center consider helping with InSPIRESS,” Cordell-Meikle said. “It helps the students, the school and our organization because we are making a difference in our community.”

Benefield agrees. He said the event’s success rests on the efforts of the STEM volunteers like Cordell-Meikle.

“We want to thank you (judges) for being willing to serve as a judge for the InSPIRESS program. Our program would not be the success that it is without volunteers like you,” Benefield said. “See you in the fall for another exciting semester of InSPIRESS!”