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Space School Student Reflections

In December last year, during our summer break, twelve Siena College students attended the ACTURA CASE Space School in the USA, for a unique STEM based experience at NASA. Madeleine Quin (Year 9), Rebecca Gilmartin (Year 10), Grace Kim (Year 10), Amy Linden (Year 10), and Jasmine Skutela (Year 10) attended the Junior Program which took place in Houston, Texas and Huntsville, Alabama.  Lily Dickenson (Year 11), Alexandra Musco (Year 11), Ashley Pietrobon (Year 11), Kaytlin Spencer Smith (Year 11), Zara Turner (Year 11), Taylor Wilkinson (Year 11) and Jade Devlin (Year 12) attended the Senior Program in Houston, Texas.

The following reflections written by our students are a brief insight into this valuable STEM learning experience.

Student reflections

From 9-20 December 2018, twelve Siena College students were privileged to participate in ACTURA’s space school in Houston, Texas. After a journey of almost twenty four hours, we arrived in Houston. On our first day, we went to Ad Astra, a company creating a new form of engine, a plasma propulsion engine. This engine super heats gas into plasma, the fourth state of matter. This plasma provides constant thrust and significantly decreases travel time. In fact, with this engine, a trip to the moon would only take two hours as opposed to fifty seven hours! Following this experience and various shopping expeditions, we finally attended Space University - a five day program at NASA Johnson Space Centre. During this program we made a Mars base, a Mars rover and created a heat shield to protect our ‘eggs’-tronaut! We saw one of the three remaining Saturn V rockets at Rocket Park which was truly amazing. That rocket was huge! Whilst at NASA, we got to see some astronauts in training prepare for an eight hour work day at the neutral bouyancy lab known as the Sonny Carter Training Facility. Here, two astronauts are submerged in a huge pool twelve metres deep to work with a mock up of the International Space Station under water as this simulates weightlessness.  We were so fortunate to meet many astronauts who have worked with the space shuttle program including Nicole Stott.  All in all, this experience is a once in a lifetime adventure and I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity. I have definitely been inspired by everyone I met during this trip, especially Nicole Stott, to chase my dreams of becoming an astronaut. 
Jade Devlin Year 12 (SCB)

Over the summer holidays I participated in the trip to NASA. Deciding to join this adventure was one of the greatest decisions of my life. We worked off a jam-packed schedule, waking up at 5.00am most mornings so we could all be out and on the road as early as possible.  Some of the most amazing activities we completed were working in a simulated mission control working as a team to solve problems. For example, at one point I was working for life support and suddenly we had a breach in the oxygen tanks and only four minutes of air left. We had to work as a team and solve the problem so that our crew could land safely. My favourite part of the trip would have to be all the amazing girls I met, and the lifelong friends I have made.  We were all very sad to say goodbye, but we are all still keeping close contact. This was the trip of a lifetime and if anyone gets the opportunity to go on this trip I highly recommend it as you will never regret signing up.
Lily Dickenson Year 11 (SKD)

I had so much fun whilst on Space Camp and learnt a lot about science and the world of space. I really enjoyed trying different machines and learning about the way astronauts prepare for travelling into space. The best part was attending lectures from inspiring people who wanted to help us grow. The presenters were so admirable and I really enjoyed the exposure to a new environment. It was fun trying something new and it wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be. I would highly recommend participating in this experience if you are questioning whether you should work in this field, or even if you’re curious about space. It teaches you a lot about the world of technology. I met a lot of people and made many new friends. I learnt a lot about myself and I’m so thankful that I was able to take part in this program.
Amy Linden Year 10 (SDB)

The Actura Case Space School trip was the most incredible experience I have ever completed in my life. The exclusive access we received included speeches and meeting several inspiring astronauts encouraging us to one day have a career in the space or science field. Throughout the five days at NASA we worked in teams and made rockets which we launched, created a Mars habitation, programmed and built a rover and tested thermal and cryogenics on our marshmallow astronaut. The recreational activities were also incredible, such as the museum, shopping, NBA and scuba diving.  This trip also created a bond between the members of the B21 group, exploring an unfamiliar place for the first all together, bonding over the same passions we have.  To this day I still miss those 6.00am wake up calls and being on the bus to NASA.  The trip reinforced my real passions for Space Science and I  encourage everyone who loves Space or Science to go on this trip where you learn nothing is impossible.
Alexandra Musco Year 11 (SDB)

The remarkable trip to Houston, Texas allowed me to learn more about the variety of careers available in the space programs. We were given this amazing opportunity to be exposed to another culture leaving me with many unforgettable memories. Attending an American basketball game, the George Observatory and N.A.S.A are only a few of the sensational places we visited while in Houston. This trip was incredible and I would recommend it to anyone interested in pursuing a career in the space industry or just wanting to explore their future career options.
Zara Turner Year 11 (SKA)

During the Space School camp I learnt so many valuable skills such as how to remain focused under pressure in the mission control simulator and how to work with a team.  We learnt how to work with budgets at Space University and were encouraged to never doubt yourself, something my team experienced after we constructed a glove and everyone laughed at its appearance.  In fact we did win, despite its odd visual credentials!  My favourite activity at Space University was definitely cryo and thermo activity. It was fun to experiment with which  materials work best to keep the marshmallow and egg safe. I really liked the mission simulator because it pushed us out of our comfort zones trying to deal with almost losing air and then almost crashing the rocket.  The activities are not just normal school science tasks, you see and experience situations real astronauts encounter for training and on a mission. And if that wasn't enough, you also get to experience swesome events like the NBA.  Overall it was a great trip with many great experiences that I will never forget.
Ashley Pietrobon Year 11 (SDC)

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