The ultimate STEM experience

Posted 14 February 2020 11:11am

Each December, it has become custom for a group of CCGS students to participate in the CASE Space School in the USA. Recently, I had the honour and opportunity to enjoy this experience as I accompanied a group of science-loving girls on this engaging, hands-on adventure.

Students learned about the development of space-related technology and were lead through several simulated missions where they worked together to overcome challenges and adversities.

The days were filled with non-stop wonder as we were surrounded by one of the most extensive collections of space artefacts and displays in the world.

In the first week, students explored the United States Space and Rocket Centre in Huntsville, Alabama and went through space shuttle simulations, and experienced some of training that astronauts must do before heading into space. They were put through their paces on the Multi-Axis Trainer used to train pilots to stabilise a craft after it goes in to multi-directional spin on its descent to Earth.

Students got to experience what it is like to walk on the moon with 1/6th of the Earth's gravity and got a sense of what it was like to be in space with during a low gravity simulation. One of the highlights for the students was mission training where the groups was split up into teams; space shuttle crew, scientists, and mission control specialists - with life size simulators of the space shuttle cockpits and mission bays. Students were given problems to solve in flight and in space, all the while directed by the mission control team.

In between mission training they had a range of STEM activities including building heat shields, design moon bases, building and launching model rockets, doing a shark dissection.

In the second week we traveled to Houston, Texas, home of NASA's Johnston Space Centre. Astronaut Nicole Scott led an inspiring presentation at the welcome dinner and the CGGS girls got to take some selfies during a meet and greet.

We also had the chance to see the real Saturn IV rocket used take men to the moon. When fully fuelled, this giant machine weighs three million kilograms. There was opportunity to visit the actual mission control centre used in the 1969 moon landing and we saw full size replicas of the International Space station where astronauts train before they head off into orbit.

There was also time for cultural activities including a NBL basketball game and of course, shopping at WalMart. Over 400 students from Australia and New Zealand participated in this trip and our brave CGGS ‘Astrogirls’ made many new connections and life-long friends.

Sam Papasidero
Head of Science and Technology Faculty

Photo at top: Imalshi Herath (Year 9), Jasmine Niu (Year 9), Sofia Sendzimir-Wright (Year 8), Emily Rae-Brinsden (Year 10) and Himara Jayasekera-Peiris (Year 9) at the CASE Space School.

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