Robotics teams take out-of-this-world trip

Claire Goldberg and Diane Kim

On Tuesday November 20th, the Middle Division (MD) girls and co-ed Robotics team visited the NYC Center for Aerospace and Applied Mathematics located in the Lower East Side. The center uses the NASA Aerospace Education Lab to conduct a program that helps get students excited about STEM through hands on challenges about space. Students also can meet NASA scientists to learn about their jobs. The teams attended this trip to learn about space because their competition’s theme this year is called “Into Orbit, which is basically outer space,” according to co-ed team coach Jason Torres.

“As part of a way to get the team to understand the mission of their competition, we like to take them on a trip,” girls team coach Glenda Guerrero said. The coordinators of the First Lego League (FLL), which is the league the teams compete in, create different events in the city relating to the topic. The center hosted just one of many events in the area, and the coaches decided that it was best for the team.

“It was an interactive environment that required them to communicate with each other,” Guerrero said. This was ideal for the team because collaboration is essential for the team’s development right now, she said.

When the students were there they did a challenge called Mission to Mars. Torres thought the trip would “help them generate some ideas and problems to address in regards to this year’s theme,” he said.

According to Guerrero, students were divided into groups by an application process and assigned different positions based on what the coaches thought were most fitting for each student. For each role they were given props such as suits, headsets, and microphones to make the experience “completely realistic,” Guerrero said.

The trip proved to be an exciting and new experience for everyone involved. Kira Lewis (6), a member of the girls team, took on the role of a Communicator at the center. “If one person doesn’t want to cooperate…then it wouldn’t work,” Lewis said. “Everyone was working together, even if you didn’t know what the person next to you was doing.”

Christine Tao (7), who had the role of a geologist, thought it was interesting to be able to simulate an emergency situation with meteor showers. It offered an insight into what space missions are like, she said.

The true value in the trip was to learn more about and brainstorm ideas for this year’s FLL topic: the psychological burdens an astronaut can go through, how to alleviate such conditions, and capturing and recycling space debris, Guerrero said. Asking representatives questions and going through the simulation themselves, “helped [format] new ideas,” Nitika Subramanian (8) said.

Subramanian also felt that the members of the team had grown closer by spending the day together doing an activity relating to an interest they all enjoyed, she said.

In total, the trip was “absolutely fabulous”, and helped better their understanding of their mission, and practice essential values, which will help them secure a win at their upcoming competition, Guerrero said.