The team of Hayes High School students who were recently recognized by NASA for an app they developed traveled to Pittsburgh last month to get an up-close look at the rovers their app was designed for.
The team of students consists of seniors Adam Fronduti, Paul Gabel, Jacob Payne and Meg Wolf, as well as junior Rosemary Cranston. The team submitted its app to NASA’s app development contest last year and were invited to Houston in February. The team departed the state on April 12 and returned on April 14 after visiting the John Space Center and many of its facilities, along with presenting its app to NASA researchers.
Hayes math teacher Joanne Meyer said the Pittsburgh trip was arranged by Pittsburgh attorney and Hayes alum James F. Bauerle, who saw coverage of team’s achievements earlier this year and invited them to tour the Moonshot Space Museum and the National Robotics Engineering Center.
The students departed on April 23 and returned the next day. During their trip, they took an astrobotic tour at the Moonshot Space Museum, attended a Pittsburgh Pirates game, and visited Carnegie Mellon University, the National Robotics Engineering Center and VEX Robotics.
Wolf said she enjoyed meeting Bauerle and seeing the rover for which they designed an app to help it navigate across the moon.
“He (Bauerle) was a jack of so many trades,” Wolf said. “I liked seeing the rover in progress and knowing it could be landing in the spot we chose for our app. It was so much more real seeing it in person.”
Wolf said the feeling of being around space-bound objects is surreal.
“We were in Houston with stuff that is going to space and then (in Pittsburgh) with stuff that is going to space, everything is so weird. … We’re five feet from this thing that will be on the moon,” Wolf said before expressing her gratitude for the tour. “These people were so kind to have us.”
Wolf said the Pittsburgh trip was a fun conclusion for the team, who began working on the app in August.
“It was the first time in a while that we were able to be five teenagers and we didn’t have a major presentation to worry about,” Wolf said. “Now we know it was worth it. This is the tightest team I’ve ever been on.”
Wolf said she plans to attend Villanova University in the fall to study mechanical engineering and mechatronics.
Cranston said the trip was several firsts for her, including her first baseball game.
“It was really fun!” she said. “I was singing ‘take me out to the ball game’ every three seconds.”
Payne said that now that all the trips and projects are concluded, he feels that he has “a hole in my schedule.”
“I want to do something else,” Payne said. “(I want to) see what challenges I can do that are similar.”
Looking back on the months-long experience, Payne said he believes it will provide him opportunities after graduation.
“I can’t believe it happened,” Payne said. “The experience I gained was very valuable, and I’m taking that into college and into work.”
Payne said he plans to attend Ohio State University to study aerospace engineering.
Fronduti agreed with Payne and said the experience was unbelievable.
“I can’t believe it’s been nine months (since the project began) …” he said Thursday. “It’s been a really unique experience. I feel really grateful. There were so many people who put in so much time.”
Fronduti said he’s currently undecided about his plans after graduation.
Gabel said the odds were against the team but was proud to have persevered.
“I can’t believe this actually happened,” Gabel said. “The probability of us all being in the right place, at the right time, having the right people and a handful of times we nearly collapsed but didn’t. … It was a really fun experience.
Gabel said he plans to attend Ohio State University to study electrical engineering.
Cranston, the only junior on the team, said being done working with the seniors is “very bittersweet.”
“There was all that work that was put into it, and we got of rewards but now it’s just over,” Cranston said.
Cranston added she plans to try and be part of another app development team at the high school in the fall.
“I think I would do it next year with another team,” Cranston said. “It won’t be the same, but I think having the knowledge of what we struggled with will benefit my future teammates.”
The senior members of team said they would happily help Cranston again in the future.
“I can’t wait to see what she does,” Wolf said.
Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG.