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News Release
OC "Lunar Ladies" Take Grand Prize in NASA Mars Robotics Challenge - 02/18/21

by Heidi DeGarmo, South-Metro Salem STEM Webmaster

The Lunar Ladies robotics team from Oregon City High School and Gardiner Middle School took advantage of some extra free time in 2020 to take on (and win) NASA’s ROADS on Mars Challenge.  The Challenge was originally slated to end in April 2020, but after a series of delays due to COVID-19, the annual live tournament was changed into a virtual video submission to ensure social distancing.  For the second year in a row, the Lunar Ladies won the Grand Champion award for Oregon.  This year, the team was also selected as National Co-Champions along with three other teams from across the US.  The Lunar Ladies were the only all-girl team to win and the only repeat winners in the entire nation. 

As Grand Champions, the Lunar Ladies will receive a one-of-a-kind NASA experience once COVID-19 restrictions are relaxed; most likely an all-expense paid trip to Kennedy Space Center in Florida to view a live space launch in July or October of 2021.

The Lunar Ladies are: Sophia Misley (7th Grade), Lily Kirkpatrick (9th Grade), Ariana Nackos (9th Grade), Patricia Misley (9th Grade) and Pahlychai Thao (10th Grade).  Portions of the team have been working together on STEM related challenges for over 6 years.  “These girls are amazing.  They overcame multiple COVID-19 delays and came out on top.” said Tom Misley, coach of the Lunar Ladies, “They even hand-crafted their team costumes as a tribute to everyone’s favorite little green man, Marvin the Martian from Looney Tunes.” 

The ROADS on Mars Challenge celebrated the launch of the Mars 2020 rover as well as the 50th anniversary of Apollo 13’s “successful failure.”  Teams faced tasks including engineering and programming, analysis of biological signatures and geologic features, and simulating flying to Mars and successfully landing. 

Teams were scored on how well they programmed their custom built LEGO EV3 Mars “rover” through a series of obstacles on a 8’ x 10’ map of the Red Planet.  In addition, a compact drone was used to safely land a model of the Mars 2020 rover on the map as well as take photos of a replica of a Mars crater.  Successful teams were able to command their rover to collect and cache five simulated soil samples and test a real soil sample for moisture.  Other “mini” challenges included mission planning, crater formation, delta dynamics, methane detection, mission patch design, social media video editing, and the study of macroinvertebrates.  

The ROADS on Mars Challenge was sponsored by NASA and the Northwest Earth and Space Sciences Pipeline (NESSP). 

The ladies are looking forward to competing again in 2021.  NESSP and NASA are still accepting new teams for their latest virtual challenge, “ROADS on Asteroids” for 2021.  You can find additional details and register teams at www.nwessp.org.

Attached Media Files: Lunar-1.jpg
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