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Puerto Rico, Pathfinders win national robotic summer program competition

Puerto Rico, Pathfinders win national robotic summer program competition

[Photo courtesy of David Sebastian and the Inter-American Division]

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A group of Pathfinders from Puerto Rico won a national robotic summer program after competing against a dozen other groups from the island, earlier last month.  As part of winning the top spot on the island, the seven-member-team of young Seventh-day Adventists took part in the final International Space Station’s event held in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico earlier last month.

The winning pathfinder team called Robogen took part in the Zero Robotics Middle School Summer Program which follows a five-week STEM Curriculum that introduces middle  school students to computer programming, robotics, and space engineering and provides hands-on experience programming SPHERES or Synchronized, Position, Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites. The summer program is provided through a partnership between the MIA Space Systems Lab, the Innovation Learning Center, and Aurora Flight Sciences. It is sponsored by NASA, the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), and the Northrup Grumman Foundation.

For Robogen members Exequiel Velázquez, Jeremy Sebastian, Ricardo Muñiz, Charliz Rivera, Nataly Nieto, Cheselyn Morales and Ariana Echeverría of the northeastern part of the island, it was a first experience that meant a sense of accomplishment.

Evelyn Santiago, Robogen Team camp director, said the team trained hard for weeks and reached a level of recognition for the church.

“This is a historic event because it is the first time that Puerto Rico takes part in the competition and the first time that an Adventist Pathfinder Club participates in a national and international robotic competition like this,” said Santiago.

Santiago, together with her husband Nelson Morales, both Seventh-day Adventists, were instructors of the Robogen team. They heard about the program, confirmed with organizers that the event would not be held on a Saturday and registered a group and opened it to any pathfinder club members interested in taking part.

It was an amazing opportunity that could not be passed up, according to Morales, who is a mechanical engineer. “The purpose of the camp was to teach the children to program these robotic spheres in space and enrich their knowledge in science, as well as preparing them to compete nationally and internationally,” said Morales.

Students create, edit, save, and stimulate projects online using a graphical editor to write code, then simulate their programs immediately and see the results using a simulation.

Team Robogen represented Puerto Rico in the international competition which consisted of connecting with two astronauts from NASA who were at the International Space Station who judged the project.  The Robogen team was able to see the spheres operate in space via a live feed from the International Space Station while NASA astronauts used their coding in two robotic spheres and provided real-time commentary.