The team of students at Hayes High School who submitted an app to NASA last year as part of a contest will have an interview today with NASA scientists to discuss ways of improving the app for the next round of the competition.
Math teacher Joanne Meyer, who advises the team, said she’s proud of the team for submitting an app in its first year of being part of the contest. She added NASA officials told her it’s very rare for first-year teams to submit something.
“They should be really proud because they did a terrific job,” Meyer said.
The app, which was built using detailed information about the surface of the moon, is designed to help a lunar rover navigate from point A to point B while stopping at 10 waypoints to receive signals from Earth.
Three of the team members — Adam Fronduti, Paul Gabel and Jacob Payne — said last year they had stayed up late to finish the app before the deadline, and on principle, they fixed errors with it even after the deadline.
“I felt morally obligated to finish it,” Fronduti, a senior, said.
During the team’s follow-up interview with NASA, Fronduti said one of the engineers asked them to fix a lighting issue in the app. Fronduti added he was pleased to report that he had already fixed it before their conversation.
The team found out near the end of last month that their app was a finalist in the competition, which would require them to do an interview with a panel of NASA staff.
“I was shocked,” said senior Meg Wolf. “About a week and a half before we submitted, we didn’t know if we were going to submit or not. I’m excited to hear what NASA thinks we did wrong. … Who gets to get feedback from NASA at 17, 18 years old?”
Wolf said working on the app for NASA was a dream come true for everyone on the team, and she’s nervous but excited about the interview.
“I feel overwhelmed, in a good way, because none of us expected it,” she said.
Gabel said he’s excited to hear what NASA thinks about the app and its features.
“I’m looking forward to hearing how we can improve our app,” Gabel said. “Building the app was a lot of fun, so I want to go back to doing the programming. We really focused on building a quality app. I think it’ll be a lot of fun to talk to the experts.”
Gabel said he was shocked by the results of the competition so far and by the positive reception within the city.
“It feels amazing,” he said. “It’s really inspiring to see the response from the community.”
Payne said he enjoyed the first interview with NASA because the feedback was specific and valuable.
“Their questions were personalized to our app, so they recognized what features we had,” Payne said. “I’m excited to ask NASA questions. The people interviewing us are all high status people. … It’s exciting. This is a big chance because it’s not only for Hayes and Delaware, but it’s for our futures, too.”
Meyer, who led practice interviews with the team in preparation for today’s interview, said the team has a chance to win a three-day trip to Houston to visit NASA in April if its app is selected.
“I tried to stump them, and they did great,” she said.
Team members added they are thankful to Meyer for her support and leadership.
“We are keeping her up at all hours,” Wolf laughed. “We stress her out, but she loves us.”
Meyer said the winners of the competition will be announced on Feb. 22.