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[December 14, 2012]
GSSM Robotics team reaches finals
Dec 13, 2012 (The Messenger - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- HARTSVILLE, S.C. -- The South Carolina Governor's School for Science & Mathematics' robotics team, Pirate Squad, and their alliance, The Triple Entente, are among the finalists in the international Zero Robotics SPHERES ISS Challenge: High School Tournament 2012.
The students will travel to MIT in Boston on Jan. 11 to watch the final competition live-streamed from the International Space Station (ISS). GSSM students on the Pirate Squad include T.J. Melanson from Hilton Head, Oscar Bezi from Greenwood, Bailey Oedewaldt from Rock Hill, Ben Hardaway from Anderson, Max Kirkpatrick from Greenville, Ya Fang from Hilton Head and Foster McLane from North Augusta.
Pirate Squad is ranked 6th place out of the nine teams selected from the United States. Six teams from Europe are in the finals.
"I am so excited for our team and our alliance members," says Elizabeth Bunn, GSSM Computer Science Professor and Robotics Team Sponsor. "Team captains T.J. Melanson and Oscar Bezi, have been a driving force for success. Watching the spheres on the Space Station being controlled by our software is a dream come true." The Zero Robotics Tournament is run by MIT and TopCoder and sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and NASA. Pirate Squad is the only South Carolina team in the competition. The tournament participants compete to win a technically challenging game by programming their strategies into the SPHERES satellites. The game is motivated by a challenging problem of interest to DARPA, NASA and MIT. The programs are "autonomous" and students cannot control the satellites during the test itself. The tournament progresses in phases from 2D to 3D, gradually increasing in difficulty.
Astronauts run the final robotics competition on the ISS, act as referees, and interact with participating students via a live video broadcast in a large event at MIT, webcast live to all participants so that remote viewing is possible.
"The GSSM family is thrilled for our Robotics team, their teacher, Elizabeth Bunn, and their families," says GSSM President Dr. Murray Brockman. "To make it to this stage in the tournament is a tremendous accomplishment and all involved should be very proud." The SPHERES Challenge is held every fall to expose high school students to the outstanding research facilities on the ISS. The goal is to cultivate critical engineering skills in students, such as problem solving, design thought process, operations training and team work. The competition ultimately aims to inspire future scientists and engineers to push the limits of engineering and space exploration.
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