"We really liked their approach," said 13-year-old MyCollego teammate Giulia Piccoli of the NCI Agency mentors. "For example, in the coding of the robot they did not do the work for us, but gave us inputs, ideas. And then we were the ones who found the solutions."
Piccoli said the team enjoyed the NCI Agency staff's mentorship because it gave them a chance to practice different languages.
"We also liked the fact that we had to get involved with our skills in foreign languages, since the civil engineers spoke mainly in English or French, and their Italian was very limited," Piccoli said.
Many months of preparation went into last week's challenge.
Teachers assigned the students topics to study related to space travel. The students would share what they learned about their particular topic with their classmates.
Agency technicians and engineers held meetings to help the students develop an approach to tackling the project. They gave the students a method that would help them hone in on one problem, and develop a solution.
The students had to compete to get on the MyCollego Team. They gathered three afternoons a week to work on their challenge.
"I loved to work as a team during the afternoon with other students of various classes and ages, and do school differently than in the morning," said teammate Alessia Castagna, who is 13 years old.
The MyCollego Team won its regional qualifier on 26 January 2019 in Reggio Emilia, Italy
"Thanks to this competition, I discovered a great passion for science and the desire to become a researcher in the field of physics," said Luca Corbioli, who is 13 years old.
For the project portion of the competition, the MyCollego Team developed a prototype for electromagnetic shoes to anchor astronauts at various work stations. Currently, astronauts on the International Space Station just slip their feet into straps attached to the "floor."
Csaba Grunda, a Site Engineer for Satellite Ground Station F14, provided his expertise on the prototype.
"My goal is not to tell them what to do and how, but to teach them the ability of design-thinking and object-oriented problem-solving techniques so that they can do the work themselves," Grunda said. "I am very happy to see that the idea is working at every age and they are succeeding with their project."
Local sport shoes factory Gaibana, which already produces training shoes for European Space Agency astronauts, was also involved in the project. The factory physically created the shoe prototype presented during the challenge.
"Our team has been participating in this competition for 5 years because it gives us many opportunities and allows us to discover new things while having fun," said Sofia Brunelli, who is 13 years old.