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MESA Students Win Big At Sailboat Competition

June 19, 2013

Students from Albemarle High School (AHS) represented in a big way at the International Robotic Sailing Competition in Massachusetts last week.

They may look like regular students, but these five seniors are doing big things in and out of the classroom.

This year they participated in the International Robotic Sailing Regatta in Massachusetts where they designed and built a sailboat from scratch.

"Her name is W.H.I.F.F which stands for 'We Hope It Freaking Floats' because in the beginning we didn't know if we could get everything together and get out there," says AHS senior Thomas Teisberg. "We didn't know what we were getting into in the beginning because no one on our team has ever done anything like this before and no one is a sailor."

Despite them not knowing much about sailing, they were able to take first place in three of the four competitions in the one meter boat division.

"They put together a team of students with different skill sets that could make this happen," says Jeff Prillaman, Math, Engineering and Science Academy (MESA) director.

The boat used a special G.P.S. tracking system to navigate through the water.

"We used the GPS data for location information, so if we set a wave point or a location that we want it to go to it uses all that information to figure out the best way to get there," says Eric Hahn, senior at AHS.

They are all a part of MESA at Albemarle High School. MESA takes a more hands on approach to teaching math and engineering and even helps out with scholarships for students going to college.

"They received over a million dollars in scholarships for the 44 students that are graduating," says Prillaman.

And they will need those scholarships as they go on to schools like Stanford, M.I.T, Virginia Tech and UVa.

This is the first year high school students were involved in the competition, but overall, they were just trying to have fun.

"We saw the competition and we thought the challenges of making a sailboat autonomous were really interesting," says Teisberg. "So it's this whole other dimension of challenge in which you have to be constantly reacting to the wind, it was just a really interesting challenge."

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