A Crestomere School Grade 8/9 class was “Mission Control” for three hours on Jan. 26, virtually piloting a lunar rover over a moon-like terrain, working in teams to locate ice deposits.
The “Stingrays,” a four-student team consisting of Hudson Hummel, Josiah Steeves, Ash Sargent and Carter Tylke, won a national space competition and got to experience the prize — a lunar mission simulation — with their whole class.
“It was definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” said Steeves, who’s in Grade 8.
Over 3,500 youth from across Canada participated in the Lunar Research Challenge, a competition sponsored by Let’s Talk Science, Canadensys Aerospace Corporation and Avalon Space, with support from the Canadian Space Agency.
The experience was designed around five lessons, with youth learning about Canada’s role in space, planning their rover mission and exploring careers in the space sector.
Of the four winning teams, the Stingrays was the only team from Alberta.
The team worked on their contest entry, a board game-like Moon mission experience, over two weeks.
“I never thought we’d win it,” said Sargent, Grade 8.
They said maybe a joke they made in the audio part of their submission put them over the top. They’d said “There’s a lot of nerds —I mean, nerves — right now.”
Three facilitators came from Ontario for the event.
The class, a Grade 8/9 split taught by Amanda De Atley, broke up into several teams for the mission. There were navigators, drivers, scientists to take readings, data monitors and health monitors to check the rover’s battery and temperature data.
Using maps, they had to work together to find as many ice deposits as possible. They were able to locate two of the five ice deposits before the clock ran out on the mission.
The Stingrays agreed the most challenging part of the lunar rover mission was communication issues.
With an extensive goal and a time limit, some chaos was inevitable, said Steeves.
For the mission, Steeves and Sargent were drivers, Tylke was a navigator and Hummel was a health monitor.
If the rover gets too cold it will stop working, and as it’s solar-powered, needs to stay in the light to keep moving. Thankfully the class was able to avoid those issues, the team said.
The rover was in a testing facility in Ontario and the class controlled it remotely, watching it on a large screen as well as laptops.
The Stingrays said they found it amazing they could maintain a signal from so far away and how realistic the Moon-like environment was.
Canadensys designed the rovers that were controlled by the winning teams. The company recently received a contract from the Canadian Space Agency to build Canada’s first lunar rover, which is to be sent to the moon as early as 2026.
While Let’s Talk Science says the lunar model driven by the students is not the exact model that will be sent to space, the technology used will be part of Canada’s upcoming space mission.
“Once the rover goes to the Moon, we can say, ‘We drove (one of those) once,’” said Steeves.
The team joked no one would ever believe them, but luckily there’s photographic evidence to prove it.
Steeves said space exploration is one possible future career he’s considering, but he’s also interested in engineering and physics.
Tylke, Grade 9, said he found the whole experience really interesting, but he’s leaning more towards biology as his science-of-choice.
Registration for the next Lunar Research Challenge is now open. It’s free to enter and is geared towards youth aged 11 to 14.