GSSM Students Take First Place in NASA Challenge

November 3, 2016

Students from the South Carolina Governor’s School for Science & Mathematics (GSSM) took first place at last week’s NASA Capillary Flow Challenge. Team “Snap, Crackle and Pop” was awarded the top prize during the closing ceremony of the American Society for Gravitational and Space Research (ASGSR) annual meeting in Cleveland on October 29.  

Members of Team “Snap, Crackle and Pop” are participants in the School’s new Microgravity Club. The award winning students include Gracen Mueller, child of Kelly and Jeff Mueller of Greenville; Brennan Cain, child of Lee and Kyron Cain of York; and Ryan Cuentes, child of Analisa and Carlito Cuentes of Greenwood. 

"It was an amazing experience," said GSSM Senior Brennan Cain. "We were able to present to some of the top scientists in the world and talk on a personal level with pioneers in our field of research. We are hoping to continue this next year so our juniors can have the same awesome experience."

Under the direction of Dr. Alfred DeGennaro, in cooperation with his former colleagues Dr. Dennis Stocker and Ms. Nancy Rabel Hall of the NASA Glenn Research Center, along with Dr. Elaine Parshall and Dr. David Whitbeck, two GSSM teams from the Microgravity Club submitted proposals for the Capillary Flow Challenge. The teams did extensive research, wrote computer simulations, and built experimental designs, which they shipped to NASA to perform tests on in the 2.2-second drop tower.

Unique to the 2016 ASGSR meeting, NASA’s Capillary Flow Challenge focused on investigating capillary flows and flows of fluids in containers with complex geometries. Results from the experiment could help to improve computer models used by designers of fluid systems on Earth and may help to improve fluid transfer systems on future spacecraft.

Of the seven U.S. teams formally competing in the challenge, several were successful in ejecting droplets using capillary flow in the 2.2 second microgravity interval. Judges took into account the distance droplets traveled and their velocities. Team “Snap, Crackle and Pop's” droplets travelled further and faster than any of the other teams.

"I am overjoyed for our students,” said Dr. Hector Flores, GSSM President. “When given the space and the support to fly, they soar!" 

Later this year, these same students will have an opportunity to participate in a microgravity experiment that will be dropped at Portland State University’s (PSU) Dryden Drop Tower. PSU students will build and drop a rig engineered by GSSM students and then send the data to GSSM for analysis and presentation.

“The GSSM Foundation is proud to provide support for the Microgravity Club thanks to generous corporate investors,” said Kim Bowman, CEO, GSSM Foundation and EVP Strategic Direction, GSSM. “We continue to be impressed by our students’ abilities, as well as their hard work and drive. GSSM students are simply extraordinary.”

For more information on the Microgravity Club at GSSM, contact Dr. Alfred DeGennaro at, Dr. David Whitbeck at, or Dr. Elaine Parshall at

Pictured above: Dr. Al DeGennaro, GSSM Computer Science Instructor and Microgravity Club Co-sponsor; Snap, Crackle and Pop team members Gracen Mueller and Brennan Cain; and Nancy Rabel Hall, Aerospace Engineer, NASA Glenn Research Center.

Back to News