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Altadena Students Help Control NASA Mars Drill

The fifth grade Jackson Elementary School students got to learn and help operate a drill Wednesday that will eventually travel to Mars to search for life on the red planet.

Students at Altadena’s Jackson Elementary School got to go to Antarctica Wednesday—at least remotely.

Linda Keavy’s fifth grade class of 37 students was chosen to help control a large drill currently in Antarctica that is testing new technologies for a potential future Mars trip to drill for signs of life.

See video of kids helping move the drill and comments from 11-year-old aspiring scientist and Jackson student Evad Morris in the video attached.

“It’s very exciting to be able to be a part of this,” said Keavy, who noted one of the student’s fathers works for JPL. “I’m proud of our school bringing up our scores. I feel we’re getting recognized which is awesome. Most of the kids come from poverty level.”

When the big moment came, Paulsen guided several students one by one on a computer and told them what commands to press in order to move the drill, which could be viewed via live Skype video projected in class.

“I like this because they came here and chose our school to tell us about the drill that’s going to Mars,” said fifth grade student Alyssa Aragon, who was surprised at just how cold it can get in Antarctica.

The class was chosen after NASA employee David Delgado was principal for a day at Jackson Elementary in the fall and was impressed with a lot of the science efforts at the school, Pasadena Unified School District Communications and Community Engagement Director Adam Wolfson told Patch.

Jackson’s scores on the California Standardized Test rose from 9% scoring proficient and above in 2008-2009 to 53% scoring proficient and above in 2011-2012.

The drill was built by NASA and Honeybee Robotics, which has an office in Pasadena, and is being tested in Antarctica since the conditions are similar to those of Mars, Honeybee Robotics systems engineer Gale Paulsen told students Wednesday. It can drill one meter into the ground, which is significantly further than other drills that dig five centimeters.

Paulsen told students more about the drill and answered questions, as did a team of scientists from NASA, Honeybee and Canada’s McGill University currently in Antarctica who communicated audio and video live via Skype.

“What is the warmest it gets in Antarctica?” and “Why do you want to search for signs of life on Mars?” were among the questions students asked.

Students expressed a collective, “Woah” when told the drill took nine months to build.

“This will hopefully inspire the future generation of scientists,” said Wolfson.

Students at Eliot Middle School also got to operate the drill later Wednesday.

See video of kids helping to move the drill and comments from 11-year-old aspiring scientist and Jackson student Evad Morris in the video attached.

What do you think of Jackson students getting to help control the drill? Share your thoughts below.

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