Patch Whiz Kid/Team/Club of the Week: ’s Team Estonia members Will Qawasmi, David Inga, David Shields, James Lovey and Deanna Daley.
Whiz Kid's School/Church/Community Center: West Essex Regional High School, North Caldwell
Whiz Kid's Accomplishment: Five members of West Essex Regional High School’s Robotics Team worked together as Team Estonia to compete in the annual Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Zero Robotics Challenge. The self-taught C programmers participated in the three-stage competition, placing fourth on a national level. The competition required a strong understanding of both physics and coding, resulting in two- and three-dimensional satellites maneuvering their way through asteroids and other spacey situations.
Whiz Kid's Key to Awesomeness: Competing against students from throughout the United States, five students from West Essex Regional High School coded their way to fourth place in the annual MIT Zero Robotics Challenge. The students, some of whom mastered JAVA in their AP computer science class, taught themselves the computer programming language necessary to participate in the three-stage competition.
Seniors Inga, Shields, Lovey and Daley, and sophomore Qawasmi, worked together for several months to earn the national placement, programming tiny robots to fly on board the International Space Station, as part of MIT’s competition. The robots, called SPHERES, resemble a basketball, run on compressed gas, and are programmed to revolve, spin, steer and hover through the air. The students were required to program the robots to search, mine and return another source of energy from conjured asteroids in space. Given coordinates for virtual asteroids on board the International Space Station, the students then had to develop computer codes, earning points. The finalists who received the best simulation scores gathered at MIT to watch their computer codes play out in real robots on the International Space Station.
Astronauts, Andre Kuipers and Don Pettit, collected information from the spheres flight programs, which were controlled by students, after each stage of the competition. Both former and current astronauts, including Leland Melvin, Greg Chamitoff, Jeff Hoffman, John Grunsfeld and spaceflight participant Richard Garriott were present at MIT to share their space experiences with the high school students.
NASA, MIT and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency sponsored the Zero Robotics Spheres Challenge. The competition promotes the agency's objective of inspiring students to study and follow careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
Well done, West Essex Team Estonia!