Ventura students partner with Quest Institute for 2019 space mission

One Ventura middle school is setting its sights on Mars and the moon come next year thanks to an educational partnership with tech giant Quest Institute.

The Ventura Missionary School eighth graders ranging in age from 12 to 14 have joined in a mission to build a machine capable of measuring whether or not heat builds while in microgravity. The project, once completed, will travel to space via a mission launched by Quest Institute.

The partnership came to be when the dean of the school met with representatives from Quest at a conference, sparking the idea to get the students involved.

“They wanted to get science into the hands of kids to make it interesting for them to learn about science,” said Alane Woods, teacher.

The students get a hands-on opportunity to engage in problem solving activities through electrical engineering and programming via the LEGO EV3 system, which is an educational tool used by classrooms to promote science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, activities. The same tool is used in robotics competitions as well.

Around 50 students are currently working on the project, with four EV3 systems in four different classrooms. Woods says that she encourages the students to use their problem solving skills rather than give them answers to challenging issues.

“It’s a lot of problem solving skills that they’re not used to, and at times they can get frustrated, but then when it actually works there is an electrical charge in the room that’s contagious,” said Woods.

The students’ project will be flown to the International Space Station in February, where the class will be able to download real-time data from their sensors. The data, says Woods, could help NASA better prepare astronauts for dealing with heat issues in the future.

“They feel really comfortable and get a lot of satisfaction out of the programming process,” said Woods, adding that the project will vary from year to year as the partnership with Quest continues. “They’re totally excited.”

Ventura middle school students advance in LEGO competition

Two teams from Cabrillo Middle School have advanced to the FIRST® LEGO® League Los Angeles Championship following good showings at robotics tournaments in Ventura in November.

The Cabrillo Middle School Rusty Sailors won accolades at a qualifying tournament held in Camarillo on Saturday, Nov. 17, for their project that sought to find a solution to astronauts exercising in space. The project, dubbed Space X-erciser, is a compact exercise device which can be used in small spaces.

The Cabrillo Middle School team Riptide Robotics competed in a tournament held in Thousand Oaks on Sunday, Nov. 18, and won top honors with their project named Vegi-sphere, which tackles the problem of growing food in space.

Both teams will now compete at the Los Angeles Championship at La Canada High School on Friday, Dec. 7. Last year, the Rusty Sailors competed in the same tournament and were invited to compete in the Razorback Invitation held in Arkansas.

St. John’s receives top-of-the-line heart mapping system

Oxnard’s St. John’s Regional Medical Center has received a new toy that should provide clarity never before seen in heart mapping technology.

The RHYTHMIA mapping system allows for faster data collection than standard mapping and allows cardiologists to perform complex procedures while improving outcomes and long-term success rates, such as in a catheter ablation, which was performed by Medical Director of Cardiac Electrophysiology Services, Ali Sovari, MD.

“By providing higher resolution, RHYTHMIA is certainly opening new possibilities to map complex arrhythmias that we would not consider for mapping before,” said Dr. Sovari. “The clarity provided by RHYTHMIA allows us to locate the source of arrhythmia in the heart with the highest accuracy.”

St. John’s is the only hospital between Los Angeles and Santa Barbara with the RHYTHMIA system. For more information, visit