By Kailey Fisicaro

The Bulletin

After a successful school year that included a trip to the world championship robotics competition in Houston in the spring, a few students from Summit and Mountain View high schools’ robotics teams are going to Venus.

Well, not exactly. They’ll be competing in the International Space Settlement Design Competition this weekend at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Titusville, Florida. The competition asks students to design a settlement on — or in orbit around — Venus that will provide a home to more than 10,000 people.

Once at the competition, giant teams made up of about 60 kids must write a 40-page report detailing how they would meet special requirements for the proposed space colony. A few experts in the field will work with each team to help give guidance.

In addition to the six students from Summit and one from Mountain View, Oregon is also sending one student from Umatilla and another from Ashland.

Their group will be joined by students from other countries, including China, India, Australia and the United Kingdom.

Summit’s robotics team coach Charlotte Van Valkenburg will travel to Florida with the students and one coach from Ashland. Because Van Valkenburg has never been to the competition before, she doesn’t know exactly what to expect, but she’s confident many of the skills the students have learned building robots will cross over to the space settlement design, including planning and problem-solving.

One of the only ways to prepare for the competition is to study past submissions. By reading those, Van Valkenburg and some of her students noticed their robotics building experience may give them a leg up in a couple of areas. Winning plans had models made with computer-aided design — instead of being hand-drawn — which is a skill the team uses for every robot it builds.

Nicole Parodi, 15, was excited to see that computer-aided design models are preferred because she has plenty of experience making them. Nicole, who will be a sophomore in the fall, said in some plans, the level of detail seemed almost over the top. But she suspects that much attention is what made winning teams successful in the past.

She’s looking forward to working with students from other countries, visiting NASA and making a trip to Florida, where she’s never been. The group from Oregon will spend Thursday at Walt Disney World, which isn’t part of the competition, to make the most of their cross-country trip.

While NASA covers hotel and food costs for the weekend, students have to pay airfare (and for tickets to Disney World — their choice). Nicole and a few of the other students are paying their own way by working summer jobs, which for Nicole has meant picking up a lot of extra shifts at The Original Pancake House. While that hard work may make the trip sweeter, the competition itself will be a taxing, if not thrilling, task.

“I’m looking forward to all of it,” Nicole said. “I’m even psyched to stay up until 3 a.m. to work on our plan.”

Because when you have a limited amount of time to make a plan to live on Venus, sleep is a last priority.

— Reporter: 541-383-0325,