Local students win trip to NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston

Team “Delta V Kerbal Krew,” made up of students from Spearfish and Rapid City, won the Apollo Next Giant Leap Challenge Saturday in Rapid City, winning a three-day trip to NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston in August. From left are Henry Anderson, Lilla McCauley, Holden Anderson, Hunor McCauley, Haakon Anderson, and Alan Anderson, flight director/coach. The Andersons are from Spearfish, and the McCauleys are from Rapid City. Courtesy photo

SPEARFISH – A local robotics team competed in and won the South Dakota/North Dakota division of the Apollo Next Giant Leap Challenge in Rapid City on Saturday, commemorating the 50th anniversary of NASA’s Apollo 11 mission on July 20, 1969.

The team, “Delta V Kerbal Krew,” made up of three high school students from Spearfish, Haakon Anderson, Henry Anderson, and Holden Anderson, plus two students from Rapid City, Hunor McCauley and Lilla McCauley, won a three-day trip to NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston in August, with a special tour and awards ceremony with other winning teams from around the country.

“Coaching for me was nothing more than just making sure the team was organized. They did all the work; they did all the research; they did all the planning,” Alan Anderson, whose title was flight coach for the event, said of coaching the team. 

Another local team, Lead Deadwood RoboWerks: The Galactic Argonauts, took second place in the high school division, winning a Sanford Underground Research Facility (SURF) Tour and Mission Patch.

The nationwide event challenges student teams to recreate the Apollo 11 moon landing using a drone and a LEGO Mindstorm robot. The regional level event at East Middle School included fifth- through 12th-grade students from across North and South Dakota.

The competition consisted of a simulation of the Apollo 11 mission, including designing a Lunar Lander, using a drone to fly the Lunar Lander to a target on a field, and using an autonomous programmed robot to navigate around the craters on a field while delivering payload and retrieving and identifying rock samples.

“The Apollo 50th Next Giant Leap Student Challenge was the perfect way to celebrate the anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing,” Jason Ash, associate professor of mechanical engineering at South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, said. “Congratulations to all the teams on the creativity, design, and teamwork demonstrated at the challenge. As judges, we were very impressed by our next generation of engineers and scientists.” 

The full results of the competition follow:

High School Division

1st place (NASA Johnson Space Center Tour) - Spearfish Robotics Club: Delta V Kerbal Krew 

2nd place (Sanford Underground Research Facility (SURF) Tour) and Mission Patch Award - Lead Deadwood RoboWerks: The Galactic Argonauts 

Judges Award (NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory Tour) - Turtle Mountain High School

Social Media Award - Rapid Acceleration High School Robotics Team 4593

Middle School Division

1st place (NASA Kennedy Space Center Tour) - Tate Topa Tribal School: Indians 

2nd place (SURF Tour) East Middle School 

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