When the United States of America launched Apollo 11 in July 1969, it became NASA's most celebrated mission. This mission put men on the moon for the first time and made Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin household names. Fifty years later, on July 19, 2019, five students from Garrison Middle School's robotics team, The Codebreakers, represented Walla Walla Public Schools at the Apollo Next Giant Leap Student (ANGLeS) Challenge at the University of Washington, Seattle. The ANGLeS Challenge is a national challenge celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission by giving students the chance to recreate the landing using drones and a robot.
The students built a replica of the lunar module and used a remote-controlled drone to land it on a small target marked on an 8-by-10-foot map of the moon's surface. Working as a team, the students also designed and programmed a Lego Mindstorms EV3 robot to then explore the lunar surface and bring back and identify a rock sample. Meeting weekly throughout the spring and summer to program the robots and practice, the students won their first challenge held at Central Washington University. As a result, they were invited to the regional challenge at the University of Washington.
Throughout the day, Garrison students attended a seminar given by Whitman graduate and astronaut, Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger, who flew on the Space Shuttle Discovery. Next, the students toured the Kirsten Wind Tunnel and learned how aerospace engineers test the performance of various aircraft and components. Additionally, they listened to former Navy cook Ed McKay who shared his experiences while serving aboard The USS Hornet, the ship that recovered the Apollo 11 crew after splashdown.
For their hard work and performance, the students won tickets to the Pacific Science Center.
"I am so proud of how the students came together and performed as a team," said co-advisor Kelly Gabel. "This challenge exposed the kids to two very unique industry and university experiences."
Robotics competitions are one way that Walla Walla Career and Technical Education (CTE) classes can provide students real world experiences outside the traditional classroom.
(L-R) Azalyn Zierenberg, Nora Gisi, Michael Gisi, Elizjah Garcia, Kenny Gabel