NORTH TROY — A group of ambitious eighth graders from Troy School have embarked on a journey to the moon, at least virtually, as they participate in a challenge set by NASA to develop an app for deep space exploration missions.
The students are part of the North Country Supervisory Union taking part in NASA’s App Development Challenge (ADC), a nationwide contest that engages young minds in solving technical problems to aid space exploration. The challenge, managed by the Johnson Space Center’s Office of STEM Engagement in Houston, Texas, falls under the agency’s Next Gen STEM project.
This year’s task for the student teams involves researching and designing a visualization application for one of five Artemis III landing regions around the moon’s south pole. The challenge, which runs from Oct. 4 to Dec. 13, is in partnership with NASA’s Space Communications and Navigation (SCaN) team and will directly assist with mission planning and training.
Middle school science teacher William Stilianessis introduced the challenge to his students. He leads a team of four girls: Tristan Martin, Trinity Torres, Olivia Kirby, and Glycerine Uhlendorff. The team is several weeks into the project, diligently working on a model of the Lunar Haworth South Pole landing site.
Their design includes ten communications towers and a rover pathway that adheres to the challenge’s criteria, one being no slope greater than 15 degrees.
“They have been very excited to get underway as we had some technical difficulties with software compatibility and our school platform for working with digital mapping,” said Stilianessis. “All in all they are overcoming the obstacles and persevering despite the challenges beyond their control.”
Throughout the ten-week challenge, students have the unique opportunity to engage with NASA coders and engineers during four live virtual events and weekly office hours. NASA scientists and engineers will also review student video submissions and interview selected teams. The top teams will be invited to a culminating event at NASA’s Johnson Space Center. SCaN’s involvement means these students are contributing to real-world space missions.
SCaN operates both the near space network and the deep space network, providing vital communications services for NASA missions. By participating in the ADC, the students from Troy School are directly involved in NASA’s historic efforts to return Americans to the lunar surface, including landing the first woman and the first person of color on the Moon.