Sharon Tiger Techs tackle NASA - WFMJ.com News weather sports for Youngstown-Warren Ohio

Sharon Tiger Techs tackle NASA

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SHARON, Pa. -

The Sharon Tiger Techs routinely send a team or two to nationals every year in the FIRST LEGO League, but robotics is only part of the equation.  Some of their experiences seem out of this world.

Every year, the Sharon Tiger Techs robotics team gets a specific challenge from the FIRST LEGO League, but this year's had them looking at the stars.

"The challenge this year was that the teams had to come up with an innovative solution for a social problem with astronauts with long term space flight or a physical problem," said coach Dave Tomko.

So while the robots they create get a lot of the attention, topics like this also create a pretty unique opportunity.

"That's the cool thing about the FIRST program, where it's just not about robots. It's about discovery and learning about new ideas and new concepts, and that's really where they just took off this year," said Tomko.

Sending the Tiger Techs to three different NASA facilities for some in-person research.

"Not only were we going on tours there, we were going on behind the scenes tours so we got to see stuff that other people wouldn't normally see," said 9th grader Eli Buck. "It was pretty great."

"We got to see the rovers. We got to see a life size model of Curiosity," said 9th grader Miranda Metro. "It was really neat seeing everything. I would never have imagined myself going into one of these things at a younger age. It was crazy."

It's those kinds of experiences, getting the chance to talk and interact with experts in the field that led directly to ideas like this one.

"We talked to an astronaut, Mike Fink, who told us he had eye problems in space. Part of the problem with that is all the fluid rushes to your head when you're in space so we figured, well why don't we help him out," said 9th grader Ramsey Brown. 

So his team designed a compression suit for space to help move fluid to an astronaut's extremities and away from the core. 

The other team designed a virtual reality program, complete with scents to make them feel right at home.

"We wanted to include scent so that we could give the astronaut a more vivid realization of what being back home is like," said Buck.

"It was also very fun getting to experience our prototype with the final design and actually being able to smell the scenario and see it like we're actually there," said 9th grader Alex Sokol.

Proving that robotics, much like Earth, is just the beginning of a whole universe of possibilities.

Both those teams are heading to major competitions this spring; one to the world festival in April and the other to Legoland in California this May.

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