Roanoke College students earn second place in national NASA challenge

The group took home second place, won $6,000 and continues to work alongside NASA on the project

SALEM, Va. – A group of ten Roanoke College students are being recognized for their out-of-this-world minds.

The students won second place in the NASA HOEE Starshade Undergraduate Challenge, a nationwide competition that put them to work on a real problem that leading scientists are pursuing.

Roanoke’s students, led by Bobby Hoye ‘24 and Visiting Assistant Professor Truong Le, assembled a diverse group that worked throughout the fall semester to develop a “starshade.”

“You can learn a lot more about us here when you learn about what happens outside in space,” Hoye said.

The team of ten students spanned all four years and various disciplines, such as physics, engineering, computer science and more.

The award put Roanoke College’s students alongside peers at the University of Notre Dame and the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, which placed first and third.

All three teams earned an invitation to continue pursuing the project and building a relationship with NASA scientists.

“That end part that specifically talked about we want to continue working with you...I just...that’s wonderful,” Junior Art Duncan said.

The award came with a $6,000 prize for the students to put toward research and related travel. The plan is to try and make a trip out to a California NASA site where the starshade will ultimately end up being built.

Students who worked on Roanoke’s team, as well as their roles and team committees, included:

  • Bobby Hoye ‘24: Project Lead, 3D Model Lead
  • Alan Castellon ‘24: 3D Model
  • Erin Trost ‘24: Calculations, Physical Design
  • Tony Saade ‘25: 3D Model, Physical Model
  • Art Duncan ‘25: Calculations Lead, Report Lead
  • Bryan Moctezuma-Vazquez ‘26: Physical Model Lead
  • Dylan Knick ‘26: Calculations, Report
  • Addy Littlefield ‘26: Physical Model, Report
  • Enzo Tagum Fombeno ‘27: Calculations
  • Patrick Brennan ‘27: Calculations, Report

About the Author

Connor Dietrich joined the 10 News team in June 2022. Originally from Castle Rock, Colorado, he's ready to step away from the Rockies and step into the Blue Ridge scenery.

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