MHS Aeronautics team receives special merit award in DC

MARIANAS High School’s CNMI Aeronautics team received a special merit award at the Real World Design Challenge national/international championship in Washington, D.C. on April 13.

MHS Aeronautics team design engineer Ian Cataluna said they are the recipient of the “Against All Odds” award. MHS also received the same honor in 2012.

“We were commended for completing a very wide-scale project despite overwhelming circumstances, specifically, Typhoon Yutu,” Cataluna said in an interview.

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MHS Aeronautics team project manager Mimi Sakano and design engineer Ian Cataluna are members of the CNMI team that participated in the recently concluded Real World Design national/international competition in Washington D.C.  Photo by Lori Lyn C. Lirio

The other members of the MHS Aeronautics team are Mimi Sakano, project manager; Genyang Larry Liu, systems and test engineer; Holly Liban, project scientist; Gaeun Yang, simulations engineer; Jieun Yang, marketing specialist; and Seungju Lee, project mathematician.

In the national/international championship they competed with 22 other teams.

This year’s challenge was to design a drone that can fly in six areas located in a 1.6 km by 1.6 km environment, equipped with a sensor payload that can detect vegetation growth without guidance from GPS. It must include a system that will allow it avoid stationary and moving objects. In additional, the drone project must be presented in a proposal that will appeal to a city.

Cataluna said they started working on project in Aug. 2018. “But our work was affected in the aftermath of the typhoon because there were not many resources available, and there were lot of power outages.”

Catulana said they usually met in a café to work on their project, a “hexicopter” which they called “Soteria.” It is named after the Greek goddess of safety, salvation, deliverance and preservation from harm.

Cataluna said they are thankful for the opportunity to represent the CNMI in a national/international competition.

He encouraged other high school students to also participate in the Real World Design Challenge.

“The CNMI needs more professionals in STEM and this competition is one of the ways students can be ‘exposed’ to it,” he added.

In Washington, D.C., Cataluna said he and his team-mates met a lot of engineers and other professionals involved in STEM — Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.

“When you branch out your network, you’ll be able to know more people you could reach out to if you need ideas or advice,” he added. “The Real World Design Challenge is one of the pathways to get yourself involved into the STEM community.”