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Avondale high schoolers compete in NASA app development challenge

Through the challenge, the students are working on Artemis Generation missions to land American astronauts on the moon.

AVONDALE, Ariz. — A group of West Valley high schoolers has landed the opportunity of a lifetime. They’re going up against about 800 other students from across the nation in a competition with NASA.

It’s an out of this world assignment for the group of ambitious freshmen like Angel from Highland Prep West in Avondale. 

“It’s kind of crazy, yeah, I know I never thought I would be here," Angel said.

He's a team member on Highland's NASA app challenge, and it’s blowing his mind too.

“Yeah, I mean it’s NASA," Angel said. "It’s definitely, as a freshman, I haven’t really worked like this before.”

Classmate Isabella Rendon, shared his reaction. 

“I was like, I have to text my mom at lunch," Rendon said. "I was very excited. It was definitely a cool experience to get told that.”

The driven freshman class running the NASA project only has about 12 students. Bill Imbus is the engineering teacher who took the lead. 

“I think it’s great to have an organization like NASA to come to high school and even middle school kids and say hey, we want your input," Imbus said. "We want your creativity on how to develop an app.”

They work with different computer programs every week to develop their app. Through the challenge, the students are working on Artemis Generation missions to land American astronauts on the moon. That includes landing the first woman and first person of color on the moon too. The goal of the app is to visualize the South Pole region of the moon. They spend a lot of time on the project in and out of the classroom. 

NASA’s Rosanna Patterson said NASA has even used past students’ work on their actual endeavors. 

“Our subject matter experts were completely blown away by the work they had done and they utilized their information in their department,” Patterson said. 

She added, they started the app development challenge in part to involve students in coding and computer science. 

For Rendon, it’s an opportunity beyond contributing to NASA. 

“I’m very glad I get to be a woman in STEM and I definitely want to inspire more women in the future to get involved with it," Rendon said as she and her classmates stretch their minds beyond what’s capable here on Earth.

Highland Prep West is set to find out how they performed in the challenge in April. The top teams get to take a trip to the Houston Space Center.

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