Indian students deserved a win at NASA Human Exp Rover Challenge 2021. Who are these students?
When Odisha's Kailash Chandra Barik came across NASA Human Exploration Rover Challenge 2021, he quickly filled in the application form on the Young Tinker website, an online hands-on learning platform. Out of around 800 applications received on the website, 10 from across India were shortlisted to participate in the contest. A team of 10 young minds from different schools across the country, with expertise in different fields, was thus formed. Their odyssey began in August 2020 and the team started to work on a tight deadline as their approved proposal should be completed by February and to be displayed in the competition that was to be held in April 2021.
The Heat Of The Competition:
Every year, the NASA Human Exploration Rover Challenge presents an engineering design challenge to engage students across the world in the next phase of human space exploration. This competition poses before the high school and college students, a challenge to design a vehicle to traverse the simulated surface in the outer space. This time too, NASA Human Exploration Rover Challenge 2021 drew applications from students across the globe and from India it was through the website launched by Anil Pradhan, an engineer and mission director of the Navonmesh Prasar Student Astronomy Team (NaPSAT) that the selection of Indian team was made. NaPSAT's main aim is to groom scientific temper, develop creative and innovative ideas especially among the lesser privileged children. The team NaPSAT comprised of school students aged under fourteen, thus making them the first school team from India to contest in the global level competition. This competition that asks to create a four-wheeled mechanical rover to work on the surface of the moon for future human missions involves students under 19 years of age. Students must come with a working model of a foldable rover with no motor. It should be able to fit in the space of 5x5x5 feet. According to Anil, the students must include the axle, wheels, drive-train, steering, suspension, seat ergonomics, soil extractor and other aspects of the vehicle.
The Incredible Indian Team:
Out of 800 applicants from across the country, the shortlisted 10 young engineers are Rishikesh Amit Nayak, Anjishnu Pattanayak, Shreyash Vikas Mishra, Ankan Mondal, Nitesh Patnaik, Dati Danda Pani Patra, Kailash Chandra Barik, Tanvi Mallick and Kanuri Varshini. These students from different schools across India are involved in design, bot driving, mechanics, presentation, management and marketing. They have successfully put together a rover that could run on the surface of the moon. Anil said, “I explained the requirements of the competition and assisted in arranging the resources. The students materialised the design". He stated that the team worked relentlessly even during the pandemic to build the vehicle. “We received a mail on November 6 that our team has been selected to represent India at NASA in the challenge,” Rishikesh Amit Nayak, stated. Post selection, this team was allowed by NASA to participate in the NASA Rover Challenge held in Huntsville, Alabama.
The Winning Moment:
The competition that was to be held in Live by physically visiting and demonstrating the working of the vehicle was held virtually owing to the pandemic which again posed challenges to the students who had to put in additional efforts to convince the evaluators. However, the Indian team did not compromise on exhibiting their effort and did it in the best way they could. Finally, NASA pronounced them as the ‘overall winners’ in the high school division. It ranked them third after Parish Episcopal School Team 1, Dallas, Texas, and Stillwater Area High School, Stillwater, Minnesota. This is the first time ever that an Indian high school team was declared as the "overall winner".
"Indian teams have won awards in other categories but being part of the overall winner category has remained unbreakable so far. Moreover, it is not the students from premium institutes winning it, but innovators from humble backgrounds achieving success,” Anil said.
This achievement surely marks the beginning to believe in the potential of students from the low-profile backgrounds or those who are pursuing their education with minimal resources. These students, who showed that they are not less than anyone studying in big and reputed institutions, come from humble backgrounds with limited access to resources. This success also highlights the importance of hands-on learning over the rote learning methodology followed by the Indian education system.
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