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Students with the W.O.W. (Women of the World) team from Forks, Wash., test their rover in the practice space at the University of Washignton. (University of Washington Photo)

Middle and high school students from across Washington state competed in a robotics challenge last week at the University of Washington to mark the 50th anniversary of the Apollo moon landing. Two winning teams won’t get to travel to the moon, but they will visit NASA facilities on opposite sides of the country.

The Apollo 50 Next Giant Leap Student Challenge, or ANGLeS Challenge, attracted 4,000 students since its nationwide launch in January. Organized by NASA and the UW’s Northwest Earth and Space Sciences Pipeline, the event required kids to use drones, a miniature replica of NASA’s lunar lander and a Lego Mindstorms EV3 robot to explore an 8-by-10-foot map of the moon’s surface.

Members of the Boys Scouts of America Troop 751 team, from Sammamish, Wash., flying their drone at the UW. (University of Washington Photo)
Members of the Red-Tailed Hawks Flying Club team, a regional team based in Mukilteo, Wash., display their origami lunar lander. (University of Washington Photo)

According to UW News, 28 five-member teams from Washington state qualified for the finals, and the UW served as a regional host on July 19.

  • Green Foot, a team from Franklin Elementary School in Port Angeles, Wash., took first place in Washington. They will visit NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston in August.
  • The second-place team from Washington was Astro Aphelion, from the Tacoma STEAM Network. They will travel next month to the NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, Calif.
Members of the “Astro Aphelion” team, from Tacoma, with their drone and the lunar module that it carries. (University of Washington Photo)
Members of the Galaxy Girls team, from Port Townsend, Wash., accept the Best Mission Patch Design award from retired astronaut Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger. (University of Washington Photo)

Teams had to fly a remote-controlled drone from a starting line to land on the map of the moon’s surface in the same spot where Apollo 11 touched down, according to UW News. They then used the Lego robot that they programmed to explore the lunar surface, bring back a rock sample and leave a culturally significant object.

Teams also had to design a mission patch and uniform and points were awarded both for how accurately teams were able to complete the challenge and for their overall participation in event activities.

A Lego Mindstorms robot, with a plastic astronaut strapped to the front, approaches the lunar lander. (University of Washington Photo)

NESSP seeks to attract underrepresented students into space careers.

“We provide outreach to students across the country so that they will be inspired to contribute to future developments on the ground and into space,” NESSP director Robert Winglee, a UW professor of Earth and space sciences, told UW News. “As in the Apollo era, innovations being developed for spaceflight have major benefits, often unforeseen at the time, for society.”

NESSP also announced that a similar national challenge will take place next year — the ROADS on Mars challenge, for grades 3-12. More details will be released in the fall.

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