Savannah-Chatham County Public School System

Isle of Hope K8 School Fiddlernauts Bring Home National Championship at National Student Astronaut Challenge

Published on: 2/17/2020

Isle of Hope K8 students competed in the National Student Astronaut Challenge Finals held at NASA in Florida earlier this month.  The students had qualified in third place competing against teams from Miami to Seattle at a Run-Off Competition last fall to select the best 15 Middle School teams from across the nation to compete at Nationals.

The students spent months practicing 12-18 hours a week, including many weekends to prepare for the four challenges they would face over the three-day competition.  The four challenges included a Design Challenge, Engineering Challenge, Space Shuttle Atlantis Simulator Challenge, and a Landing Challenge.

For the Design Challenge, students were asked to research and build a prototype (using specific materials) that would help decrease injuries from footholds on the International Space Station. Over several months, Chyler Ross, Megan Nguyen, Aisha Rhenals and Ally Arnsdorff, along with the rest of the team, researched the injuries sustained by astronauts, talked to experts in the field, including engineers and Commander Robert Shane Kimbrough, an astronaut for ISS Mission #49 and #50.  Students wrote a research paper on their findings, created a slide show, and built a prototype.

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For the Engineering Challenge, students were divided into a mission control team and a team aboard the Space Lab on the ISS.  There were four components that had to be worked through…lack of technology for communication/relay between team members, broken circuits that had to be fixed where one team had the circuits and another team had the directions, computation of Ohms Law, and the ability to analyze the problem, design a solution, and understand (in that scenario) whether the problem had truly been corrected.

For the Landing Challenge, all six members of the team had to land the shuttle.  They were randomly selected for each portion of the challenge - meaning all six participants had to know how to both land the craft in multiple scenarios, as well as communicate how to land the craft.

The Space Shuttle Atlantis Simulator Challenge includes a pre-launch checklist, launch into orbit, deorbiting procedures, and landing at a designated location lasting almost an hour from beginning to end. To participate, students had to spend an extraordinary amount of time learning the schematics of the Shuttle, as well as the location of all the switches. They had to learn to collaborate and work together strategically to isolate problems and repair them, all while flying the Shuttle.

The #Fiddlernauts received the gold medal for the Landing Challenge and were crowned National Champions.  The students received the bronze medal for the Space Shuttle Simulator Challenge.

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The 2019-2020 #Fiddlernauts are coached by Mr. Bob Nickels, Mrs. Carol Nickels, Dr. Barbara Serianni (Georgia Southern University), and Ms. Carolyn Rethwisch (Isle of Hope School).  The Rotary Club of Skidaway Island provided a simulator for the team to practice on this year. Isle of Hope School, PTA, family and friends donated generously to make this dream a reality; and Mr. John Hopper, CEO of Bobcat of Savannah, donated to the team to make their journey possible.  Their generosity is much appreciated!


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