HELENA – Fifty years ago Neil Armstrong took one small step for a man.
Montana students honored that achievement by participating in the Apollo Next Giant Leap Student Challenge.
The challenge brought student teams from across the state to the Montana Learning Center at Canyon Ferry Lake, where they simulated a lunar landing with student-built landers and rovers.
The competition recreated the challenges that faced the Apollo 11 moon landing.
The replica lunar lander and rover were controlled by “ground control” students behind a wall while their “astronaut” partners gave directions. Points were then given based on performance.
Aubrey Neidich and Erica Brackett of Bozeman spent two months designing their lander and rover with their team and practicing for the competition.
The girls said they had a blast working on the project and honoring one of the greatest scientific achievements of the 20th Century.
“It’s pretty awesome,” said Brackett, “I was really stoked about it.”
Neidich echoed the sentiment and added her personal favorite part was working with and getting to know her team.
“When we first started working on the project none of us really knew each other, but then throughout we’ve all become really great friends,” said Neidich.
MLC Executive Director Ryan Hanahoe said events like these are how we help encourage the next generation of scientists.
“It’s vitally important for our country to move forward, that we need to invest in STEM,” said Hanahoe. “What better way than by building a pipeline for the future by starting with our kids.”
The Montana Learning Center was one of 14 institutions nationwide to take part in the event. Sponsors provided $18,000 worth of prizes for the Montana Competition including trips to NASA facilities.
This year’s winning high school team is Team Fusion of Helena. Their prize for taking top marks a trip to the NASA Johnson Space Center this August.
-John Riley reporting for MTN News