By Samantha Trezevant

After weeks of hard work and dedication, a group of local students and teachers known as Team Pardus has developed an application to map the surface of the moon. The team from Bell Creek Academy (BCA) is one out of 10 groups to make it to the finals, and the only group from Florida.

NASA encourages young students to be the next generation of explorers. One way it does this is through their App Development Challenge, which is a coding challenge where NASA presents technical problems to middle and high school students seeking student contributions to future exploration missions, according to

Team Pardus consists of nine high school students and two teachers. The students, Jon Santmyer, Peter Cross, Amanda Schultz, Estaban Acebedo, Alejandro Acebedo, Giovanni Borras, Malakai Overstreet, Kristina O’Connor and Ryan Leung, were assisted by teachers Melissa DiCenzo and Samuel Zucker.

The team participated in the coding challenge on September 20, 2020 and completed it less than two months late. Their mission was to create an app to be used to explore the south pole of the moon. These developments will help NASA put its first woman on the moon.

This is such a monumental achievement for team Pardus and Bell Creek Academy. Because of this, a ceremony was held to honor Team Pardus for all of their hard work.

The ceremony was held at Bell Creek Academy and included many notable people, such as Melissa Snively from the Hillsborough County School Board; Addison Davis, superintendent of Hillsborough County Public Schools; Commissioner Corcoran; Michael Strader, president of Charter School Associates; and more. The presence of these people helped the students feel congratulated for their hard work and dedication.

At the ceremony, many of the students spoke on behalf of Team Pardus.

Peter Cross, a senior at BCA, demonstrated the app and recited a speech about his own obstacles and the team’s challenges as well. He talked about how much time this project took, the effort and commitment of Team Pardus and the unexpected experience that he gained from this project.

He said, “I learned that it takes time, effort and commitment to create a project so earth-shattering.”

Another team lead, Amanda Schultz, gave a heartfelt speech about how proud she is of herself, her team, and the school. She gives credit to her supporters for allowing her to explore herself.

“Personally, this experience continues to guide me to work hard for my future career path of space exploration and discovery,” said Schultz.

Bell Creek Academy is located at 13221 Boyette Rd. in Riverview and can be reached at 793-6075.

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