Park Ridge 6th grade girls picked as winners in national competition conducted by NASA

A Park Ridge Catholic school honored some sixth grade students Friday, after they were picked as winners in a national competition put on by NASA.

"I started crying when I saw Saint Paul of the Cross, she started crying when Dr. O announced our names, and she started screaming at the top of her lungs," said 6th grader Renata McCoy describing the emotional response of the team when they learned they won.

These are not stodgy scientists. They’re 6th grade girls at Saint Paul of the Cross School, poised to teach us a thing or two.

"I feel like it showed the world that like girls can accomplish great things, too,' said Lily de Tagyos.

"What they build will actually be sent in a rocket up to space," said Dr. Erika Mickelburgh, St. Paul of the Cross principal during Friday morning mass, where she honored the girls for being among the winning teams in NASA's TechRise Student Challenge. 

The 6th graders are among 57 winning teams, and are the only one from Illinois.

Their winning idea is a space junk collector.

"Because when the astronauts are coming back to the earth, there's a lot of space junk around it and that can damage the rocket which can hurt the astronauts," explained Abby Bomely.

They bring fun to science with a design that looks like an alligator jaw.

"We've got like little teeth that are magnetic. So while it's moving around, if there's like a magnetic piece that comes close, it'll like trap it in," said Keira Demes.


They just received a box from NASA to actually build that space junk collector, under the guidance of their STEAM teacher, Dr. Karl Ochsner.

Then NASA will launch it into space in spring 2023.

"I know my parents said we were going to go to New Mexico to see the launch and that’s really exciting," said Mary Ann Gleason.

These girls not only beat other teams at their school, but about 5000 students nationwide, including high school students.

"I actually started crying because we did not think our group is going to get chosen. You're going against high schoolers, and you're the lowest grade to get chosen." said de Tagyos.

Yes, they are little girls, but NASA believes in them and they clearly believe in themselves. 

That's a good launching pad for whatever they explore next.