Huntington High School’s robotics program lost some of its biggest stars to graduation. That doesn’t come as a surprise since it happens every June. It’s time for a new group of bright, energetic teenagers to assume the positions vacated by the seniors, who are moving on to the college ranks.
The team is recruiting new members. Like any activity it isn’t for everyone, but those who are interested in the program would do themselves a favor by watching the movie, Apollo 13 before deciding one way or the other about joining the team.
The seventh manned mission in the Apollo space program and the third designed to land man on the moon, Apollo 13 lifted off from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on April 11, 1970. Two days later an oxygen tank exploded, crippling the spacecraft 205,000 miles from Earth. The lunar landing was cancelled and there were serious doubts about whether the crew of three would return to Earth. The nation held its collective breath.
The plan to save the astronauts required the spacecraft to go around the far side of the moon, 248,655 miles from Earth and 137 miles above the lunar surface. No man had ever traveled so far. The movie Apollo 13 details the enormous technological obstacles related to finding a solution to the situation, which included life threatening obstacles at every turn. The spacecraft’s command and service modules were rendered essentially useless, severely limiting answers to every problem.
NASA turned to the “Grumman guys,” as the Bethpage based Grumman Aerospace Company engineers were known. Grumman had built the lunar module or LM (pronounced LEM for its original name of lunar excursion module). The LM was designed to ferry the astronauts from the service module to the moon’s surface and back to the spacecraft before being jettisoned into outer space. It was meant to carry two individuals for the relatively short distance between the service/command module and the moon.
But since Apollo 13 was a crippled craft and it couldn’t return to Earth as had been designed, the “Grumman guys” helped NASA pull off nothing short of a miracle. The LM essentially towed the crippled service/command module back to Earth. How engineers pulled the whole thing off is detailed in the movie and too technical to get into in a short article here.
Incidentally, Grumman took its name from Leroy Grumman, one of its founders and its biggest original investor. Known as Roy, he was a Huntington High School graduate and the salutatorian of the Class of 1911. His commencement speech was on the “aeroplane.”
But, back to the Huntington High School students of 2018/19 who might be interested in joining the robotics team. Watch the movie and start to get an understanding of mind-numbing technical challenges and how small and large groups of intelligent, knowledgeable and hardworking individuals can and do work together to solve them. That’s how Huntington Robotics works. The team is comprised of some of the most ingenious young minds in the state, if not the country. It’s a lot of work, but plenty of fun, too.
Gene Krantz was the flight director of Apollo 13. Once the full dimension of the space catastrophe had become clear and the daunting odds of getting the astronauts back were brought into focus, Mr. Krantz recalls going to the front of the “mission control” room. “I said this crew is coming home,” he remembers. “You have to believe it. Your people have to believe it. And we must make it happen.”
That same gung-ho spirit and philosophy prevails throughout the Huntington Robotics program. It’s a team of problem-solvers. There’s also room and need for those interested in marketing, public speaking and developing presentations, public relations, fundraising and more.
The team itself is filled with exceptional teenage men and women from a variety of backgrounds and with varied interests. They all join together annually to make Huntington Robotics the envy of high schools all across Long Island and the nation.