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For many years of my childhood I was fascinated with the night sky. The stars, the planets, the possibility of space travel and everything else in between has always intrigued me. So, in June of 2018 when the opportunity to travel to the USA to develop this interest arose, I took it with both hands. The one year count down began; the months became weeks, which became days, until finally on 1 October 2019, we departed Perth Airport for America.
Our first stop was Los Angeles where we explored the California Science Centre and later the famous Hollywood Boulevard where we enjoyed dinner at the Hard Rock Café. We also visited Universal Studios which was an amazing experience; for many of us this was the highlight of the trip. Our American tour guide Mike was our first insight to American culture and we discovered many differences! Over the trip I accumulated a list of differences I found in America which included minuscule things like the main meal being called the entrée and giveway signs being titled ‘yield’.
San Francisco was next, and for me this was my favourite place. With the Golden Gate bridge being our first attraction, we were able to get our bearings and understand where the city was in relation to the bridge; across the water was the infamous island of Alcatraz. At Fisherman’s Wharf we had the chance to look around the shops; the atmosphere in the city was just as incredible as the many friendly people we met along the way.
Finally, our last destination was Huntsville, Alabama. Perhaps for many, the highlight of the trip would have to be the comfy beds we enjoyed at the Drury Inn. Perhaps it was the exhaustion we faced which made them so comfortable?
Last, but absolutely, certainly, definitely not least, we went to NASA’s Space Camp where we spent the majority of the trip. We were split into two groups and for six days we performed a variety of different activities. We performed many engineering challenges such as rocket building, rover building, making heat shields for eggs and constructing space suits for apples.
One favourite among the group was scuba diving. The heated neutral buoyancy tank which was 40ft deep was an experience that will not be forgotten. It simulated the anti-gravity effects which would be experienced in space. We also climbed and jumped off of a 30ft pole and zip lined, encouraging team work and leadership.
My personal favourites were the various missions we performed. In these missions, each of us were assigned roles either on the Mission Operations and Control Room (MOCR), in the space shuttle or on the International Space Station (ISS). My favourite activity was the EVA (space walk) which entailed hanging in a harness high above the ground and switching out panels and wires with various tools. Those on the shuttle also managed a beautiful landing, made possible by the many people who learnt and manoeuvred the difficult computer systems in MOCR.
Despite segregation being eradicated on buses in the USA in 1956, our bus at the beginning of the trip became segregated into sections of friends. However, by the end, new friendships were formed and everyone began to emerge from their shells.
The trip for me was more than sightseeing; it was more than learning. It was an opportunity to mingle with new people and to develop friendships that will last a lifetime. Through the experiences we shared, the tasks we were faced at space camp and the excitement of travelling abroad, the twenty individuals on the USA Stem Tour of 2019 became a team of young and passionate friends.
To say thank you to the teachers who made this trip such a brilliant success, is not enough. But on behalf of the USA Stem Tour group, I’d like to express my sincere gratitude to Mr Julian, Mrs Stephenson and Mr Wallace, who not only made each and every one of us feel comfortable and helped us get the most out of the trip, but put up with us for thirteen whole days. You have truly impacted each of our lives and we have all taken away something from this incredible trip.
Year 10 student
“I initially wanted to go to Space Camp as I was interested in expanding my interest and passion for Physics. Visiting Los Angeles, San Francisco and most importantly, Huntsville in Alabama where Space Camp took place, gave me an immersive environment to learn more about Astrophysics and NASA in general. Going on this trip has definitely helped me decide on what career I want to pursue in the future.” Florjean (Maye) Bautista
“My favourite part of our USA trip was universal studios.” Jared Goode
“The USA STEM Trip was a throughly good time for everyone involved. There was so much to do and see even if we didn’t have many breaks, everyone had a good attitude all the way. Lots of us made friends from schools also visiting the camp at the same time from Sydney and we are sure to stay in contact. All of us on the trip had a great time, and shared new experiences together.” Mackenzie Constantine
“The best part of the USA STEM Trip was scuba diving at Space Camp in Huntsville. It was really fun getting to the bottom of the tank. They had set up pipes and a basketball ring where we could play a game of basketball with bowling balls. I liked the porthole setup which allowed us to interact with tourists of the museum from the bottom of the tank. I played rock paper scissors, wrote notes and took some photos with families. Scuba was so much fun and definitely the highlight of the trip. I’m very grateful to have been given the opportunity to experience this activity at Space Camp.” Abbi Jennings
“An experience I have took away from this trip is how the tech industry has evolved and the career paths that follow within the industry. Even though we only visited Silicon Valley for a day I was able to learn so much information about Google, Intel… This has opened my mind to many future career pathways.” Logan Ellis
“The USA STEM Trip was a very unique and life-changing experience for me! At first, I signed up for the trip out of curiosity and my interest towards space; in the end, it’s encouraged me to pursue a career in aerospace. In Space Camp, we engaged in many different and challenging activities like performing our own ‘real-life’ space missions, creating our own model rockets and thermal protection systems, simulate flying a mach one fighter jet, and my personal favourite, experiencing neutral buoyancy through SCUBA. To me, learning about all the many steps it takes into launching an object into space was very interesting and how many people have innovated and created many different things, allowing us to accomplish our goals in space. Overall, the trip was an amazing experience! I’ve gotten to know my peers and teachers so well over two weeks and now I have a better insight into my future career.” Sean Burgos
“I decided I was interested in the STEM Tour as I wanted to expand my knowledge on the future aspirations that there is for space, and the expansive information available about the space race. My favourite part of the space camp itself was the scuba diving in their neutral buoyancy tank.” Tom Fiebig
“I came on the trip because space and space exploration interested me and it was a once in a lifetime opportunity I could not say no to. The trip has opened up my eyes to the jobs and opportunities NASA and space exploration offers. They’re not only looking for astronauts and geniuses but engineers, teachers, artists and many more. I am now aware of the possibility of working for an agency like NASA and the career path I can take to get there.” Shelby Muir
“I initially decided to come on the trip because it felt like an opportunity I would regret passing up and I was right. On this trip I learned a range of teamwork skills and ridiculous amount of history of space conquest and the science behind it. The most exciting part of the trip are all of the big things you do, especially the core parts of Space Camp. Things like the engineering challenges, rides, MAT (Multi-Axis Trainer), 1/6th gravity chair and mission were clear highlights of the trip for me. This trip has also opened my eyes to all the intriguing work being done in space travel at the moment and made me consider space agencies as possible employment path.” Tom Stephenson
“I really enjoyed the opportunity to be the Chief Medical Officer on our simulated mission to Mars, even though I didn’t save three people.” Stacey Love-Nally
“I decided to take part in the trip as it was a once in a lifetime experience and I knew that I would regret missing out. It was an amazing two weeks, especially at Space Camp where we had the opportunity to engage in various STEM activities, experience Mission Control responsibilities, learn and practice the Russian alphabet as part of our International Space Station presentation, our enquiry skills were put to the test as we were tasked with building a functioning rocket along with a bunch of other amazing and exciting experiences!” Lily-Rose Smith
“The trip opened my eyes to the depth of, not only the world, but the universe. It reaffirmed and strengthened my love for science as well as my fascination of life beyond our planet. The camp gave me an opportunity to talk to and form friendships with people I may not have in school. I have come away from this trip as an overall more confident and optimistic person.” Ciara Murphy
“Space Camp really changed us. At the start of the trip most of us were struggling to turn the showers on, and within two weeks we landed on Mars.” Beau Outridge
“The MCC USA STEM Trip was an amazing opportunity for the students to experience practical and safe character growth, while experiencing a different culture and having fun. Students initially struggled, relying on each other to all work out how to turn the showers on, but were placed in an environment where they could grow, reaching the peak of being able to run a simulated mission to the Martian surface, where students had to be able to think on their feet, and rely on each other to deal with medical problems, placing a lander onto Mars and performing scientific analysis of the foreign soil. Overall an amazing experience that allowed all the students an opportunity to grow in self-confidence and communication skills.” Michael Sowerbutts