CHITTENANGO, N.Y. (WSYRTV) — It began in the classroom.

Syris Dwyer said, “My teacher came up to me and said, ‘hey do you want to do this?’ and I said ‘what is it?'”

And they all agreed. The challenge: The Regional Apollo 50 Next Giant Leap for Students. The team: Bears in Space.

“Competition day, everybody was stressed,” Dwyer said. “We had like the least amount of people on our team and we were kind of doubting, we could maybe do very good.”

“We were also the last team to do our run through so I was extremely nervous,” said Riley Ellis.

The nerves lifted as the drone took flight. Hours and hours of practice took control. 

“We first fly the drone and then we drop that lunar lander in the middle and that’s like the replica of us dropping off the robot,” Leah Demauro said.

The robot is coded to move around, avoiding moon craters as it drops off a payload, picks up a specific colored object and returns to the landing. When the drone sweeps in and out, the clock stops, their mission ends and the doubt was replaced by excitement.  

Ellis said, “I was shocked and I even cried a little bit because I was so happy and proud that we all did it together.”

Bears in Space took first place.

“We won a trip to Houston, Texas for four days and we got to tour NASA,” Dwyer said.

The students saw the International Space Station and watched astronauts in training. But the most stellar experience?

“We met Fred Haise, who was an astronaut on Apolo 13,” Dwyer said.

Ellis said, “We had front row seats while he was talking, so he was right there and we even got a picture with him and we got to bring back a signed hat from him for one of our teachers who couldn’t go.”

Now they’re back at school, excited for the new school year and the next robotics competition.

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