MSSD Students Attend NASA Space Camp
Space Camp and Aviation Challenge in Huntsville, Alabama provides a special Space Camp experience for deaf and hard of hearing children from all over the world. Programs are offered one week each year on the Huntsville campus. This year, six schools for the deaf from across the USA and two from foreign countries sent students for the May 3-8 session, in addition to individual students coming from some states. States represented this year were: Washington D.C., South Carolina, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Kansas, Illinois, California, Iowa, and North Dakota, as well as one school for the deaf in Italy and one school for the deaf in Germany. The 35 deaf and hard of hearing campers joined about 400-500 other campers from all over the nation here this week.
Space Camp is a five day program of activities that include astronaut training for young people, simulated Space Shuttle missions, IMAX movies, training simulators, rocket building and launches, scientific experiments, and lectures on the past, present, and future of space exploration. Students participate in a very realistic simulated shuttle mission, experience weightlessness, and in many ways train as real astronauts train. Activities are designed to promote independence, self-confidence, decision making, teamwork and leadership skills, among other academic and social-emotional skills.
This year, Ernest Willman, Jeremy Smith, and Lucas Baron represented the Model Secondary School for the Deaf, accompanied by Amy Newland, Language Art Teacher/Space Camp for the Deaf Director and Mark Tao, Science Teacher. The students chose the Advanced Space Academy Aviation Challenge Hybrid program, which includes a combination of Space Camp and Aviation Challenge activities. Trainees learned to command or pilot an orbiter, studied various aspects of the Aerospace Sciences as well as land, water, and air survival as it relates to aviation. Instead of flying the flight simulators at Aviation Challenge, some were able to participate in the dive training in the Underwater Astronaut Trainer scuba tank.
Our wake-up call at 7:00 AM started a full day of activities that did not end until 10 PM. After breakfast, we spent the morning in Bravo mission training and working on rocket construction. In the afternoon, we explored orbital mechanics and orbiter systems and visited the on-site gift shop. Most of us got dog tags as gifts for families and friends. We then rode a bus to the aviation base for flight simulation training in take-offs and navigation. This took up the rest of the afternoon and then after dinner we returned to the aviation base to continue working on landing skills. We also learned about air crews and ejection seat systems. The day wrapped up with a land survival activity before we returned to our tube-like dorms, called The Habitat.
Day 2 photos
We spent the morning in the Columbia/Discovery classroom watching a space officer give a PowerPoint presentation about Russian space history. In the middle of the speech we were evacuated to the basement to wait out a passing storm or tornado. After the mini-history course we moved to the Enterprise Mission Center for Charlie Mission Training. The astronauts, including MSSD student Jeremy Smith, picked up a 5,000-pound satellite with the shuttle's mechanical arm and retrieved it for storage in the cargo bay. Other crews worked at the mission control center video screens and cameras to communicate with each other. After that activity, we all enjoyed watching an IMAX movie with rear window captioning. In the evening, we rode the space camp bus to the aviation challenge base to train on Mach 2 flight simulators learning about Air to Ground and Air to Air combats. Finally, the team discussed food and water processing in the space shuttle.
This morning we continued with Alpha Mission and Bravo Mission training. Each trainee rotated among specialized roles in the mission control center, Reviver orbiter for repair at the space shuttle cargo bay, and the space shuttle skylab cargo area. All trainees worked together to launch the space shuttle to the international space station, complete tasks by following the flight manuals, and return the crew back to Earth. Problem solving and communication were keys to a successful mission. In the afternoon each trainee received a question sheet and raced to find answers during a museum hunt activity.
The night's challenging activity was the highlight of the whole week. We had to wear army fatigues and old clothes to go through the woods in an escape and evasion activity. We worked with groups of hearing campers on a special mission. First we needed to get rid of the airport guards in the woods, then planned to escape and the enemy. We were ordered to crawl all the way through the muddy dark woods. We were a mess; the red clay of Alabama covered our bodies. "I went with Jeremy, it was so much fun to do this activity", Ernest said. "It was all about strategies, fast reactions and teamwork."
Day 4 photos: Check out photos 64-101 to see us participating in the night activity!
We completed breakfast in time for a brief discussion about the day's tasks. A camp leader took us to the climbing wall to test our strength. Almost every camper rose to the challenge and raced/climbed to the top. We then proceeded to ride the space shot, an exciting simulator that launched us 140 feet in 2.5 seconds, culminating in a 2-3 second free fall. This allowed us to feel the force of the Earth's gravity upon our bodies.
After reviewing and celebrating the successfully completed missions as well as reminiscing about our exciting week of learning, we proceeded to a graduation and awards ceremony. The guest speaker was former NASA astronaut Mr. Harrison Hagan "Jack" Schmitt, He was the last one of the three Apollo astronauts to set foot on the moon. Our team received three awards for being motivated, showing high energy and working hard during our week.
"My favorite activity was the army crawl in the dark forest at night. I felt like I was becoming a soldier", said Jeremy. "Space camp was the most fun place to learn about space science and my favorite activity was scuba diving," Lucas noted.
Ernest won a special award, "The Right Stuff". This award is given to the student who the staff feels has demonstrated the most leadership, motivation, and teamwork during that week. He said "I enjoyed myself and met many new friends. Space Camp was one of the best camps I ever attended. I strongly encourage students to attend Space Camp to get more real life experience related to Space Aviation as well as to learn and develop new knowledge!"