“Commander, we are standing by for MECO.” “Roger Flight, preparing for MECO.” “The crew of STS-330 is preparing for MECO.”
This may sound like an astronaut communicating with mission control as they prepare for Main Engine Cut Off, or MECO, but it’s actually a group of sixth and seventh-graders completing a simulated mission at Camp Kennedy Space Center, a part of Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex’s education program.
This same group, also known as Endeavour, spent their morning developing a hydroponics lab, which grows a plant without the use of soil. One of Endeavour’s leaders, Rena McCullough, says, “We talk about what a hydroponics lab is and what a plant requires to grow, then we give them a large array of materials they can use and without any examples, they come up with it all on their own.”
In groups of three, they presented their experiments to the judges. Groups are graded on design, presentation, creativity, staying within budget, and whether or not it worked. The children are also required to state what they would do differently next time. Some of the materials used were a plastic cup, plastic wrap, paper towels and a screen. One of the teams said their goal was to create a greenhouse effect and happily reported that it worked; their little soy bean sprouted a stem!
Rena is starting her eighth summer working with Camp KSC and believes that science and technology is a focus for students. She supports Camp KSC’s goal of teaching the next generation about space travel. “Our camp is great because there’s not a lot of focus on space travel right now, and it’s important that these kids get excited and inspired about space. I feel confident that this camp does just that,” says Rena.
However, the camp does much more than educate on the space program. The kids involved are learning how to interact with their peers and work in groups.
Camp KSC 2014 started June 9 and runs throughout the summer until August 8. Camp lasts one week and ends with a graduation on Friday where every participant receives a certificate to take home. Team Endeavour will also find out who wins the award for their hydroponics presentations.
“The experiment doesn’t have to be successful for a group to win. It’s mostly based on design and presentation. It’s all their own creativity,” says Rena.
Camp KSC is available for second grade through 11th grade this year. It’s held at the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame which has numerous classrooms, along with a spacious room containing a mock up space shuttle cock pit, a mission control center, and several astronaut training simulators, including a micro-gravity wall and multi-axis trainer.