It isn't often that you hear about seventh-graders pitching an idea to NASA, but Niles is one of several schools around here getting the chance next week.

Their creation is a mini-Mars rover affectionately known as Phil, designed and built by four seventh-graders at Niles Middle School. It was part of a hands-on challenge in Mrs. Breegle's science class.

"They had to design a set of wheels that would go on Mars surface. It had to go through sand, it had to go through inclines, it had to go through rocks," said seventh-grade science teacher Gaye Breegle.

It's part of a program through Inventor Cloud and NASA. The students started out with some "test" wheels, then had to analyze what worked and what didn't work before coming up with their own design which they 3D printed to bring the whole project to life.
"First, we had to learn more about Mars's surface so we would make sure that it would be able to go there," said Harper Sabatino.

"We made them with spikes and we had half-circles on them so it would help going through the sand and the rocks," said Ashton Russo.

"The spikes were really big so it couldn't go over the smooth surface that effectively," said Thomas Rossi. "So we made the wheel a little smaller and the spikes a little smaller and the circles, so then it could go over the smooth surface and also the sand and the rocks."

To make sure it worked, they had to test it. In the back of the classroom, they set up troughs to make sure it would run smoothly.

"It's supposed to collect sand and be able to maneuver over sand. It's hard to explain," said Zoey Rawlings.

In the end, their design and especially their teamwork earned them a chance to present their ideas to NASA next Monday up in Cleveland.

"I freaked out when my mom told me," said Sabatino. "I couldn't believe it."

Just four kids and their creation having a little fun with technology.

"Our society now is based on technology," said Breegle. "They have to know how to manipulate the technology. We work as teams anymore, very few people work as an individual. So the fact that they are learning to function as a cooperative group to me is exceptionally good."

So maybe the sky is not really the limit, because these ideas are going well beyond.