MORRISTOWN, NJ - The Morristown-Beard School team led by senior Jordan Ober and Upper School Science Teacher Paul Fisher recently earned the top prize in the 2016 Mars Exploration Student Data Teams (MESDT) competition for their Mars research. 

MBS took first place in the nationwide competition after Ober presented her research project, “Elysium Mons, Mars: CRISM Investigation of RSL Processes,” to a team of Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter scientists at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in May.

Ober’s research grew out of the Advanced Seminar course on Planetary Science, which she took with Fisher during the fall semester.  She then worked with Fisher this spring as part of an Independent Study, using data from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter to study current and active water processes on Mars at the Elysium Mons volcano.

Sign Up for E-News

“This research is a testament to the work that Jordan did during the Independent Study and the Advanced Seminar, but also the collaborative efforts of that very fine class,” said Mr. Fisher.  “All of the students in the Advanced Seminar class have some ownership of the accomplishment, although Jordan certainly refined the project and brought it to a new level in her Independent Study.”

The MBS students who took part in the initial research included:  Jephte Alphonse ’16, Brandon Bernstein ’16, Brian Cole ’17, Jordan Ober ’16, Neil Petrosino ’16, Oliver Stitt ’17, and Brian Worts ’17.

In their critique of the MBS research presentation, the CRISM (Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars) scientists praised Jordan Ober, who will study engineering at Lehigh University next fall, for doing “an incredible job.” 

“She did as good a job as returning teams have done in the past, but without the legacy knowledge.  The abstract in particular was very advanced and professional,” wrote CRISM team member Dawn Turney.  “All of the scientists were very impressed…I hope you continue your research in the future; you have a gift for it!”

As part of the first prize award, Morristown-Beard School will have an opportunity to target three observations using the actual space craft orbiting Mars.  “Professional scientists fight bitterly for access to this level of space craft resource,” said Mr. Fisher, who worked at NASA in various roles, first at Brown University and then at the California Institute of Technology at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).

Drawing on his previous work experience and NASA connections, Mr. Fisher has been able to bring many exciting real-world opportunities into his classes at MBS.   Over the past decade, MBS students have had a unique opportunity to remotely operate a 110-foot radio telescope located at NASA’s Deep Space Communication Complex in California as part of the Goldstone-Apple Valley Radio Telescope (GAVRT) program. MBS students have also participated in the Mars Student Imaging Program, using real mission tools to target a Mars orbital camera.

“Next fall, we will offer a new Space Flight Engineering and Design course as part of the new Design Arts and Sciences Department at MBS,” said Mr. Fisher.  “It will continue the work that Jordan and her classmates have done, and was inspired by the success we had with the Advanced Seminar last fall.”