Chantilly High School senior Elise Sachs, 17, of Franklin Farm won a $40,000 scholarship to attend Florida Institute of Technology in Melbourne, Fla.
A member of the robotics team at Chantilly, Elise worked on a six-week project building a robot for competition. (See story, page 10). The finished robot can pick up balls and move them, raise its arms to 11 feet and lift a hook.
Elise's scholarship is partly due to her involvement in the NASA/VCU Robotics Competition, which is produced by FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), and sponsored by NASA.
"I put together the electronics board — the guts of the robot," she said. Specifically — the electronics, chassis and super structure — "the stuff that moves the top of the robot."
"Her interest in science goes back a long time with a desire to tinker and build things," said her father Marc, a computer-security consultant. "She's long held a fascination with computers and the internet." Her mother Diane is a Mary Kay consultant.
The family moved to Virginia from Texas five years ago and one of their observations was the lack of stars in this area due to light pollution. "We spent many evenings driving west with a telescope," looking for stars, said her father.
Marty Rothwell, who teaches engineering physics and engineering systems classes at Chantilly, helped Elise with the scholarship.
"Elise is a great student. She's going to do well wherever she goes," he said.
"She's a phenomenal young lady. She's very confident in her abilities in competing with the boys in engineering and technology," said John Wittmann, administrator of The Chantilly Academy.
In addition to robotics, Elise is involved in the computer club and president of the Young Republicans club. She wants to study astronomy and astrophysics in college to pursue her dream of becoming an astronaut and eventually go to Mars or the moon.