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Montana students win science-themed trip in NASA competition

The "Moon Dancers" won the Apollo Next Giant Leap Student Challenge
Posted at 6:18 PM, Sep 18, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-18 20:18:25-04

A group of Browning students who are passionate about science is sharing what they learned after returning home from a recent trip.

The Browning Middle School Moon Dancers won the trip to Pasadena, California, after competing in a NASA science competition back in July

Over the summer, middle and high school teams created replicas of a lunar lander and rover for the 'Apollo Next Giant Leap Student Challenge'.

Browning's robotics team was the highest scoring Native team at the challenge and took home the Judge's Choice Award.

“I was so happy for them because they have worked so hard. They gave up their summer for this,” said teacher Mistyne Hall. “And so it was rightly deserved. I really appreciated it.”

While in California in mid-August, the Moon Dancers toured the Griffith Observatory and the California Science Center, along with the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a facility that creates space rovers.

Team members say they were proud and humbled to have been chosen for the trip and to represent the Blackfeet Nation to the science community.

"The fact that I'm a Native and won something big gave me a lot of recognition,” said 8th-grade student Tanner Ironpipe. “And also showing that Blackfeet can also do things too."

"Our community doesn’t get recognized much,” said 8th-grade student Kira Orozco. “So I knew that we really helped out the community and encouraged kids to do more activities in the community."

Hall says she loved watching students experience new things like flying on an airplane and wading in the Pacific Ocean, to new sights including the Santa Monica Pier and 3rd Street Promenade.

“Watching their smiles, listening to them laugh,” she said. “Just how they collaborated together and joked around.”

Hall says technology has always been a part of Blackfeet heritage and will be part of their future.

“With the Blackfeet we’ve always used technology - we created it. And it was a collaboration, so it was both, it’s part of our path of who we are.”

The Moon Dancers plan to enter more science competitions in the upcoming months.

Both students say the experience inspired them and their future dreams to be in computer programming and zoology one day.

“During the challenge I did a lot of coding and learned a lot about coding and that just helped me a lot,” said Ironpipe.

“This trip helped me because now I know a lot more about building things,” said Orozco. “So when I know there is an animal that is hurt I can build the type of technology that will help that certain animal.”

Members of the Montana Learning Center and Northwest Earth & Space Sciences pipeline were also along on the trip.