2017 marked many significant events to the astronomical community, the Great American Eclipse, the announcement of an Australian Space Agency, the Grand Finale of Cassini’s exploration of the Saturnian system and of course Brigidine’s inaugural inclusion in the Alliance of Girls Schools Australia International Study Program with NASA USA.
Caitlin Cummins and Kate Heffernan joined over 100 other Alliance girls from throughout Australia to attend HASSE Space School in Houston, Texas. Caitlin and Kate were immersed in the world’s most profound and impactful STEM environment – that of space exploration and science in conjunction with NASA. Overlaid on this experience is a learning framework that incorporates personal development in areas such as self-motivation and reliance, goal setting, teamwork, curiosity and imagination … the multi-disciplinary skills necessary to take on the changing technological landscape.
Congratulations to both Caitlin and Kate on graduating from Space University at Space Centre Houston. Where they were required to build (and launch) rockets and compete in simulations developing: Mars Habitats, Space Shuttle Shielding and Thermal Space Suit designs. This was followed by a trip to the Neutral Buoyancy Lab, to witness astronauts training in the underwater scale mockup of the International Space Station followed by scuba diving training of their own, nearby.
Throughout the program, Kate and Caitlin collaborated with like minded girls to develop their own submissions for the HASSE X-Prize. Where students were required to develop complete proposals for development, design, launch and funding plans for a robotic mission to the moon. This was complemented with seminars lead by NASA astronauts, Mars One candidates and other prominent scientists and engineers working in the Space Industry.
The site visit to Ad Astra, engaged students in the physics behind electric ion thrusters, representing cutting edge rocket technology at the forefront of space exploration. Students also visited the Johnson Space Centre, housing one of NASA’s 3 publicly viewable, unused, Saturn 5 rockets. Literally the tallest, heaviest most powerful rocket ever made, to date (and over 4 decades old).
Other highlights included: a visit to Georges Observatory, where the girls completed Mission Control styled simulations of Lunar and Mars missions, a visit to Rice University, made famous by John F Kennedy’s “We choose to go to the moon” speech and a visit to TX/RX labs, a huge “MakerSpace” where the girls received training in 3D modelling and printed mockups of their Lunar Explorers. Students also attended a live MBA game and experienced shopping in USA malls.
Certainly an “out of this world experience”. Well done to both Kate and Caitlin for representing Brigidine at NASA, USA.
Science Teacher, STEM Project Leader