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Science and Innovations

CocoNuts Robotics Club Parades Their Replica Lunar Rover

Christine Sapio

A group of teenagers in Flagstaff are spending their summer… hanging out at school. They’re the CocoNuts FIRST Robotics Team, an award winning club of budding engineers at Coconino High School. They’ve built a replica lunar rover to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo moon landing. The rover makes/made a grand entrance on a float at the Fourth of July parade today. In this audio postcard, we hear from the kids and one of their coaches about the project.

I’m Ronan Hedberg, I’m fifteen years old, and I’m with the CocoNuts. I’m a builder, I like soldering things, and making the little crimps in the wires. My favorite thing is about this club is spending quality time with kids your age, and doing cool things with robots. We have a set of two workbenches pressed together. Right in the middle of the table we have the rover. On top of the rover, we’re building a black box of 3D printed parts, and that’s where the electronics are going to ride. It’s going to keep them safe from the dust and stuff. I thought it would be super cool to build it. I’ve always wanted to see it up close and now I’m building one.

I’m Christine Sapio, I’m a physics teacher at Coconino High School, and I’m one of the coaches of the CocoNuts robotics team. I wasn’t alive when the Apollo missions happened, I wasn’t born yet. A lot of folks, they were really inspired by those moon missions. They remember seeing the missions, they remember seeing the astronauts picture on the Wheaties box, and they remember the whole world really coming together and realizing that we can do something that seems impossible. We can do in a short period of time. I think some of that spark and drive has been lost. Programs like this are really important for students because it inspires them go on and do something bigger than themselves. Maybe that’s become an engineer and maybe they’ll go off and work on the space program, or work on alternative energy or solving some of these big world problems we have. But I think reminding students especially how inspiring that really was, I think is really important.

My name is Noah Temprendola, I am fifteen, and this is my first official year on the team. The seniors on the team, they’ve been training me all year. We first draw it up on SolidWorks, which is a 3D cadding software, and then we decide all the dimensions and cut it out and put it together using bolts and power tools. It’s a lot harder than it sounds. It’s fun still. Especially cutting it down to the right dimension. It looks like Grover the Rover, it’s four big wheels with a chassy. It’s really cool that we’re going to show it off in the parade, and… I like the color. Nice gold, nice NASA gold.

I’m Erick Yoakun, I’m a programmer here on the CocoNuts, I am 16 years old. In programming it’s a lot of frantic Googling, and there’s really nothing more satisfying than getting something to work properly.  Our team had to look up the schematics of the actual lunar rover, and then cut every dimension in half. We looked at the pieces at our disposal and what we could do to try and replicate this. It’s little hard because we don’t have the millions of dollars they did. But I think we’re making good progress. It’s just one of the cool things that we get to replicate what was done by amazing engineers, I think it’s really amazing we have this opportunity.

Melissa joined KNAU's team in 2015 to report on science, health, and the environment. Her work has appeared nationally on NPR and been featured on Science Friday. She grew up in Tucson, Arizona, where she fell in love with the ecology and geology of the Sonoran desert.
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