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A taste of space aims to boost interest in STEM careers

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A trio of Albuquerque area high school seniors were part of a group of 320 students from 45 countries and 27 U.S. states that recently completed a wildly enjoyable stint at Space Camp, also known as the Honeywell Leadership Challenge Academy at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center.

They were Ashley Fitzpatrick from Cottonwood Classical Prep School in Albuquerque, Jessie Linder from East Mountain High School and Jacob Steckbeck from Volcano Vista High School.

Jessie Linder, a senior at East Mountain High School, gives a thumbs-up during astronaut training. (Courtesy of Space Camp)

Jessie Linder, a senior at East Mountain High School, gives a thumbs-up during astronaut training. (Courtesy of Space Camp)

Students went through many of the same training simulations as NASA astronauts at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center at Huntsville, Ala., including: simulated shuttle missions and a moon walk; designing, building and testing their own rockets; and a new program on writing/deploying the computer application codes to launch them. Students also met NASA scientists, engineers and former astronauts;

 Jacob Steckbeck, a senior from Volcano Vista High School, goes through an astronaut weightless training simulation at U. S. Space Camp last month. (Courtesy of Space Camp)

Jacob Steckbeck, a senior from Volcano Vista High School, goes through an astronaut weightless training simulation at U. S. Space Camp last month. (Courtesy of Space Camp)

Fitzpatrick actually was on her second tour, chosen as an “Ambassador” participant to return as a result of her leadership and success in the program the previous year, and continued academic achievement and leadership at home.

Ashley Fitzpatrick from Cottonwood Classical Prep School.

Ashley Fitzpatrick from Cottonwood Classical Prep School.

She was one of seven Ambassadors selected from around the globe to help lead the 300-plus first-time students this year, officials said in a news release.

One of the objectives of the program is to increase interest in STEM subjects.

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Only 16 percent of American high school seniors are proficient in math and interested in a STEM career, and of the students who choose to pursue a college major in STEM fields, only half choose to work in a related career, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

The goal of sending students to space academy is to help ignite their passion for STEM-related subjects through a week of interactive workshops and training, officials said in a statement.

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