Connor White, a rising sophomore at Westbury Christian School, and his “Team Pegasus” teammate finished in first place, with the highest combined score at the end of the two-round Live Robotics Challenge held in connection with the Space Robotics Challenge celebration at NASA’s Johnson Space Center June 30.
The Live Robotics Challenge, similar to a hackathon, gave the student participants in the five-team competition – composed of high school students invited to compete by the Manned Space Flight Education Foundation for having displayed a high skill level in robotics – the opportunity to put their coding and problem solving skills to work to get multiple robots working together to solve a Mars exploration challenge. The two-person student teams were given a box of supplies containing multiple robot interfaces (VEX and Sphero), a computer, a goal, and a time constraint, leaving the solution completely up to them.
Following a one-hour team build, each high school student pair was matched with mentors from the top 20 finalist teams in the NASA Space Robotics Challenge, a program of NASA Centennial Challenges focused on developing software to increase the autonomy of dexterous mobile robots in humanoid format – specifically NASA’s R5 robot (a.k.a. Valkyrie) – so they can complete specific tasks during space travel or after landing on other planets.
White and Team Pegasus received assistance from finalist mentors Rud Merriam, a retired software developer, and graduate students representing the Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) Humanoid Robotics Lab (WHRL).
In photo above, from left to right: Three mentors from WPI Humanoid Robotics Lab; mentor Rud Merriam; Team Pegasus teammate; Connor White, Team Pegasus member and rising sophomore at Westbury Christian School; Therese Griebel, deputy associate administrator for programs of NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate; William Harris, CEO and president of Space Center Houston; Daniel Newmyer, vice president of education at Space Center Houston.