Thanks to a new program at Community Christian School, students get up-close and personal with their own robots. After they build the Lego NXT, students use computers to program the robot to accomplish numerous tasks. The Robotics Club members, Rachael Hunnicutt, Hannah Royer, Blair Dupre, Nathan Zerko, Dave Rainey, Jacob Martin, Alex Parrish, Blake Dupre, and Devon Mires, were accompanied by the junior high robotics instructor, Brent Faulk, the elementary robotics sponsors, Tony Dupre and Gene Mires, and the high school principal, Denise Block. Starting out with the Lego NXT is the first step for the CCS Robotics Club. These students are NASA scientists-in-the-making.

To take them to the next level, NASA gave them an invitation-only tour of the Robotics Department which included a peek at NASA’s next generation hardware, Robonaut. He has hands like an astronaut but sits on a base like a four-wheeler so he is mobile even in space.

Perhaps the most intriguing robot was Spiderbot which has eight legs and can crawl around the outside of the space station to make repairs.

At NASA, even the cars are robotic. The new vehicle for driving on the moon has 12-wheel drive and can be manipulated from inside the space station.

The largest member of the robotic team is the Canadarm 2. Weighing 3620 lb,

Canadarm2 is 57.7 feet long when fully extended and has seven motorized joints and a 15-jointed dexterous hand. It’s capable of handling large payloads and helps dock the space shuttle. Canadarm2 can also move around the Space Station like an inchworm. It consists of many Lego-like “on-orbit replaceable units” (ORUs), which you can take apart in Lego fashion and replace as needed. So the Robotics Club is well on their way to earning their place alongside NASA scientists.

What made the tour even more exciting was watching the astronauts themselves as they trained for their upcoming mission in November. Thank you, NASA, especially Sandy Peck and Kristian Mueller of the Robotics Development & Testing Branch.