MARLBORO – Four students who attended the Marlboro Memorial Middle School during the 2020-21 school year won the Toshiba/National Science Teachers Association ExploraVision challenge for their project to reduce harm to the environment during rocket launches.
The team of Suchit Basineni, Minghan Li, Ayan Patel and Pranshu Suyal won first place and were one of four winning groups based on grade level that received a $10,000 U.S. savings bond for their project. The pupils were coached by science teacher Samantha Pagliaro.
The pupils’ project was known as the Mag-Launcher, which was short for Magnetic Repulsion Rocket Launcher.
According to a press release, the Mag-Launcher was described as “an innovative, reusable electromagnetic repulsion system designed to reduce the cost of launching rockets and advance space exploration while causing minimal harm to the environment. Rather than using fuel to create thrust, the Mag-Launcher relies on electromagnets to accelerate a rocket to high speeds. By replacing the need for a first stage booster, fuel costs and greenhouse gas emissions would be reduced dramatically.”
“We were all interested in outer space and space exploration, but we first got the idea when we watched one of the SpaceX launches last summer,” Li said. “At the time, we began thinking about project ideas for ExploraVision so we added the idea of improving shuttle launches to the list. We were inspired by Maglev (magnetic levitation) trains, which is where we got the idea of using electromagnets from.”
On their website, the pupils wrote, “The current prices for launching rockets are astronomically high and the methods emit large amounts of greenhouse gases.
“The proposed technology, the Mag-Launcher, is an innovative, reusable electromagnetic repulsion system designed to reduce the cost of launching rockets and advance space exploration while causing minimal harm to the environment.
“Rather than using fuel to create thrust, the Mag-Launcher relies on electromagnets to accelerate a rocket to high speeds. Since the Mag-Launcher utilizes a torus-shaped structure, similar to a particle accelerator, to send cargo into space, the rocket has an infinite distance to travel before launch.
“Once the desired speed is reached, the rocket will disconnect from the system and propel into the air. By replacing the need for a first stage booster, fuel costs and greenhouse gas emissions will be reduced dramatically. Therefore, the Mag-Launcher will provide a cost-effective and environmentally friendly method to transport cargo into space.”
The pupils were honored with a virtual ceremony featuring Bill Nye, “The Science Guy.” The eight winning projects reflected ideas ranging from Artificial Intelligence-powered toothbrushes that can detect viruses to eco-friendly diapers that reduce carbon emissions.
“I was excited and surprised because it was a bit of a rush to get the project in and I honestly forgot about it for a bit,” Pagliaro said. “When I told the students, they were shocked and we started meeting every day working on the national competition. When they won nationals, as a coach I was proud of them and that something wonderful came out of this year.”
The four pupils who participated in the science competition will attend High Technology High School, Lincroft, and hope to pursue higher education in engineering.