NASA helps Oklahoma high schoolers build robots for space

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OKLAHOMA CITY – Robots have taken over Oklahoma City.

On Saturday, the Cox Convention Center hosted the First Robotics Competition and their regional finals.

“Today is a pretty intense competition,” said Jim Bridenstine.

The NASA Administrator was talking about teams of high schoolers from Oklahoma, Colorado and Missouri going head to head with their robots.

“The robots are competing against each other, but all the kids are having fun. It’s such an amazing environment,” Bridenstine said.

Since 1989, NASA has helped to put on the competition. Groups of teens work for 6 weeks before the competition to design robots to do things like put a ball in a hoop or climb a ladder.

Things don’t always go as planned.

“It’s very high stress, and we are trying to get the robot fixed. We’ve had some complications, but it’s very good for us to learn how to fix the robots in 10 minutes,” said Danielle Feller.

Feller is part of a team of Oklahoma City home schoolers called the Ninja Monkees. It’s her third year to compete in the regionals.

“It looks really good to colleges on scholarships and job applications, and it gives you some really good life skills like teamwork and work ethic,” she said.

One of those jobs could be with Boeing or NASA. Both fund the competition and have provided their own engineers and scientist to help as mentors to the competitors.

“The thing about the folks that are building robots for NASA today, they were competing in this competition 10 and 20 years ago,” Bridenstine said.

Bridenstine is actually from Oklahoma. The NASA administrator knows robots are key to their current missions on Mars, around Pluto and to the satellites that are 4 billion miles away, outside the solar system.

Bridenstine said the new mission to the moon will need minds like the ones working downtown on Saturday.

“This time, when we go to the moon, this time, we are going to stay. That means we need humans, but we also need landers, and rovers and robots. NASA is robotics organization, and this is about American competitiveness. These kids are the future of NASA,” he said.

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