West Virginia University Mountaineers Take Home NASA Robotics Prize

West Virginia University Mountaineers  pic

West Virginia University Mountaineers
Image: statler.wvu.edu

In her Westbury, NY, home, Valerie Varnuska often follows robotics competitions on television. Valerie Varnuska appreciates the way robotics has grown and wishes there were even more competitions to watch.

In 2012, NASA began a five-year-long robotics challenge known as the Sample Return Robot Challenge. Teams competed to build robots that could solve real-life problems as part of NASA’s Centennial Challenges Program.

The West Virginia University Mountaineers dominated the competition at every turn and performed especially well in the final Level 2 event in late 2016. The team regularly put more than 100 hours a week into their robot, dubbed Cataglyphis. Their crowning achievement was getting Cataglyphis to make decisions autonomously, a major part of the competition.

The robot was able to navigate a 20-acre park autonomously, traversing difficult terrain and picking up four samples in a two-hour span. This victory earned the team a $750,000 prize, raising their five-year total winnings to $855,000.


The Life and Works of French Playwright Molière

 Molière pic

Image: biography.com

In Westbury, NY, Valerie Varnuska enjoys pursuing her interests in art, dance, music, and culture. A fan of opera and the theater, Valerie Varnuska particularly admires the work of French playwright Molière.

Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, better known by his stage name Molière, was a famous French playwright and actor. He was noted for his comedic talents and his influential style of juxtaposing the sensible and the absurd.

Molière was born in Paris in 1622. He was expected to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a furnisher to the royal household. He opted instead to devote his life to the theater and began to produce plays in 1643.

Molière’s theater company Illustre-Théâtre struggled financially. The local community of theatergoers could not support it, and Molière found himself in a debtors’ prison on more than one occasion. His troupe was fortunate enough to perform before Louis XIV in 1658, and the king’s brother became a dedicated patron as a result. As an official entertainer for the king, Molière went on to produce his best-known works, including The Precious Maidens Ridiculed and The Imaginary Invalid before passing away in 1673.

Star Walk Makes Stargazing Easy

Star Walk pic

Star Walk
Image: itunes.apple.com

An inquisitive Westbury, NY, resident, Valerie Varnuska professes diverse interests that include music, art, and astronomy. One of Valerie Varnuska’s favorite things to do is stargazing.

The mobile app Star Walk can make this easy. Available for iPhone, iPad, Kindle, Windows 10, or Android, Star Walk allows you to identify stars and planets by simply pointing your phone into the sky. Utilizing your device’s internal sensors, the app brings up a map which allows you to learn about 200,000 stars, planets, satellites, and constellations. With the Time Machine feature, you can even explore night skies of tomorrow as well as years ago.

The app’s night mode darkens everything and changes bright colors to a deep red, making it easier to see when it’s pitch black out. Visual magnitude can also be adjusted so that your phone is able to highlight even the most distant stars that might not be visible to the naked eye.