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Robertsville Middle School one step closer to launching satellite into space

The group of students plans to use the satellite images to study how the Gatlinburg Wildfires affected certain areas.

OAK RIDGE, Tenn. — Students at Robertsville Middle School in Oak Ridge will now have solar panels for a satellite they plan to send to outer space. 

The group received $20,000 from Comcast to launch the project. 

"We are going to send a satellite into space to look at the Gatlinburg area after the 2016 Gatlinburg wildfires," Laurel Hetrick said.

The project started years ago but as of 2019 the group is a few steps away from actually launching it into space.

"We're probably going to send it to researchers and scientists," Brennen Scott said.

Funding for the project came from a host of different organizations. The Oak Ridge Public Schools Education Foundation, the Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the Comcast Foundation all pitched in to bring the opportunity to the students.

"I'm doing something most middle schoolers don't get to do," Hetrick said.

But the support doesn't end there. Todd Livesay, who teaches the Robertsville students, said they've received a lot of help from NASA directly.

"Dr. Patrick Hull from the Marshall Space Center in Huntsville, Alabama has been our mentor throughout this," Livesay said. "We go down there every year to get advice from him."

While the students get constant guidance on their project, they do everything from the coding to printing 3D models themselves. 

"It's complicated but I like being challenged," Chloe Williams said. 

With new solar panels expected any day now, the group still needs about $8,000 to finish the project.

After they are able to buy antennas and a radio, the students will contact NASA to hopefully launch their satellite into space in 2020.

"I love coding and science and just getting to be a part of such a big thing is so cool," Natalie Vishnivetskya said.

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