East Texas schools participate in Shuttle Columbia Memorial robotics competition

East Texas schools participate in robotic competition
Published: Jan. 31, 2023 at 11:46 PM CST
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HEMPHILL, Texas (KTRE) - Several East Texas schools gathered at Hemphill Tuesday to participate in a robotic competition that’s like no other.

As part of the 20th annual remembrance of the space shuttle Columbia, students got a chance to work with real engineers from NASA and Boeing.

The Patricia Huffman Smith NASA Museum ‘Remembering Columbia’ hosted its annual robotics competition at First Baptist Church in Hemphill.

Competition coordinator Ellen Mills said high school students were given the challenge to create a community on Mars.

“You look around at all the creations they made here and just the involvement and what they’ve learned and how they’re tweaking robots to make them perform these little maneuvers to make it work,” said Mills.

The ‘mission’ was to transform their spaceship landing on mars to become a working part of a system to support human life on the planet. The students had one week to conduct research and used a Lego robot kit.

Jasper High School sophomore Caden Bootie said he and his teammates created a greenhouse containing moss that serves as a source for planting and growing.

“This robot will take the oxygen tanks from point A to point B and to demonstrate, we’re going to use an astronaut for the event,” said Bootie.

NASA retiree, Dorothy Rasco worked on 44 space shuttle missions at the Johnson Space Center. Rasco served as a mentor for the competition. She said she knew the Columbia crew well and seeing the next generation take on these projects was a sight to see.

“Being here with this robotic competition and seeing the different high schools that are here, talking to the different students is really awesome,” Rasco said.

Diboll High School took first place and Hemphill High School came in second. Their robots are to be placed on display at the museum.