NASA Space Camp

Students with an interest in Science, Technology and the future benefit from St Catherine’s NASA Space Camp educational tour to the Unites States of America.

During the September holidays, a group of Year 10 students from St Catherine’s travelled to the USA on a two week science adventure.

This trip provided a range of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) focused activities during the visit to Huntsville, Orlando and San Francisco.

The first part of the journey began in Huntsville, Alabama where students participate in a five day program at the NASA Advanced Space Academy (Space Camp). Space Camp provides a global exchange of ideas and inspiration, with students attending from countries around the world, as well as within the USA. This immersive program commenced in 1982 and continues to challenge young people with activities involving teamwork, leadership and decision making.

Our students undertook a variety of astronaut training exercises, engineering challenges and team building activities – culminating in an extended duration simulated space mission.

This learning experience enabled students to apply their STEM skills to problem solve in a team environment. Trainees were able to select between the Mission Specialist and Pilot tracks. Activities for the Pilot Track include the centrifuge, jet aircraft simulations and survival training. The Mission specialists learn about spacesuit theory and design and were able to undertake SCUBA spacewalk training.

Students trained in the Mission Centre Complex Operating Simulators where they were responsible for command and control and conducted Science experiments. The Centre has a Multi-Axis Trainer for spacewalk simulations and a 1/6 Gravity Chair so that students could experience “walking on the Moon”. Students also had the opportunity to visit NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Centre, an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, located on site. Many leading aerospace technology initiatives are showcased here, along with international space artefacts such as the huge Apollo Saturn V moon rocket.

Students continued their exploration of flight when they journeyed to Orlando, Florida. Here they spent time studying the physics of flight and then experienced free fall at the iFly indoor Wind Tunnel. Later, students toured the everglades in a high speed hovercraft.

The Kennedy Space Centre provided students with an overview of the history of space flight and the space program. The tour included “lunch with an astronaut”, which provided a first-hand account of what it is like in space. Another highlight was the visit to Universal Studios, which included a “behind the scenes” tour of some of the rides.

The final destination was San Francisco, where students toured the island of Alcatraz and spent time exploring the many interactive displays of the huge Science Centre, the Exploratorium. San Francisco also provided a gateway to Silicon Valley where students visited the Intel Museum, gaining an appreciation of the historical development of computers and the computing industry.

The final excursion was to the National Ignition Facility (NIF) at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, California. This state-of-the-art facility undertakes nuclear energy research. The NIF has designed a nuclear fusion research device that uses the world’s highest energy laser system to heat and compress a small pellet of hydrogen isotopes so that it is hot and dense enough for nuclear fusion reactions to occur. The nuclear fusion process offers the possibility of an energy source that will provide huge amounts of clean energy if successful.

This trip was action-packed with much to offer students with an interest in science, technology and the future.

Ms Lee Brandt

Science Teacher

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