Prince William County Students Use Star Wars Technology to Place 3rd in National Competition | News
From Prince William County Public Schools:
In 1999, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) professor David Miller showed the movie “Star Wars” to his students on their first day of class. After the scene where Luke Skywalker spars with a floating droid “remote,” Miller stood up and pointed: “I want you to build me some of those.”
“You won’t find any light sabers on the International Space Station, but you will find a trio of “droids” that look a lot like what any self-respecting science fiction fan remembers as a Star Wars ‘remote,’” reports NASA on its Web site. “That’s the tricky little device that Luke Skywalker used to hone his light-saber skills before he went up against Darth Vader and the rest of the evil empire. But instead of being used for light-saber practice, the droids on the space station are being used to test automated rendezvous and formation flying in zero-gravity.”
Last month, over a dozen students from Prince William County traveled to Cambridge, Massachusetts to compete at MIT in a Zero Robotics competition. Fittingly, the team’s self-appointed name was “SuperNOVA.” The national competition involved SPHERES (Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites), similar to the Star Wars droids, which were autonomously maneuvered by the teams to move through space, dock with a panel, and then return to their home base.
In the preliminary rounds, teams competed in computer simulations. The top 10 qualifying teams then visited MIT for the final rounds where their SPHERES competed on the International Space Station. In the first round SuperNOVA defeated Glenbrook North High School (Illinois). In the semifinals, SuperNOVA lost to Falmouth High School (Maine). The team then defeated Cyprus High School (Utah) in the consolation match, earning third place.
The SuperNOVA team was comprised of students from Battlefield (George Burgess IV, Thomas Ehrenzeller, Kylie Fisher, Gurpreet Kaur, Gregory Kelso, Jacob Laverty, Abdus Khan, Rainier Rabena, Arjun Shankar, Seok Youl Yoon), Forest Park (Joe Mehr), Gar-Field (Wei Low), and Osbourn Park High Schools (Chris Dorick, Roxanne Jassawalla, Benny Peake, Piper Sigrest). The team had mentors from Lockheed Martin (Dan Bray), Missile Defense (Wei Lau), Stellar Solutions (Karl Becker), and Azos (Shelia Burgess), and was coached by James Gillespie, Osbourn Park High School, and Gail Drake of Battlefield High School.