NASA: THE trip of a lifetime
Aspirations academies have for the last 10 years organised educational field trips to Houston Texas and Cape Canaveral Florida. During this time we have developed both industrial and educational links in both of these regions. Our Main focus is to provide our students with an insight into the world beyond the classroom. Our selection process for this trip does not solely rely on academic prowess but also on the ability of the students to produce work under pressure, communicate in a variety of methods and to develop their interview technique.
Aspirations are proud of their unique No Limits curriculum where, our vision is for an authentic education for this fast-changing world for children from the age of 2 to 18. We want all students to achieve high levels of success in a broad range of examinations at a variety of ages, whilst at the same time equipping them with the knowledge and skills required to play an active and successful role in today’s highly competitive, fast-changing world.
This involves the development of high levels of essential power skills which research tells us that current employers are looking for. These power skills allow for the development of the following competencies; communication, collaboration, grit, tenacity, perseverance and resilience, critical thinking and problem solving. The NASA trip plays a pivotal and flagship role in promoting this style of learning to our students.
The aim of this visit is for the students to experience and understand what it is like to be working at the frontier of science, and to meet the engineers, scientists and astronauts who will take humanity to the moon, Mars and beyond. Through reflecting on past successes and failures and looking to the future technologies the study visit aims to inspire the participants into aspirational thinking and redefining their own futures. Indeed as part of this trip we visit Rice university where we attend lectures and enjoy a tour. This has directly led to students applying for and attending Rice university for their degrees, something they would have never thought possible without this experience.
Whilst on our trip we visit local elementary schools spending a day with the students there involved with hands-on activities like rocket building and launching. This then culminates in an assembly style event where our students present about themselves and their life in England. This always goes down well with the young American students. We organise evening meals which involve current NASA engineers and also those on internships. Depending on operational commitments we will dine with Astronauts and engineers from both present missions as well as veteran members of the Astronaut Corps. The students then spend the evening discussing the finer points of the job, training and how to achieve this.
Another key part of this experience is getting to go behind the scenes at NASA. We have experienced unprecedented access both in Texas and Florida. We get to go into the VAB and walk on Launchpad 39a whilst in Florida and in Houston we go into mission control and have private tours. Indeed we have been able to make friends with Ginger Kerrick who was the first Hispanic female to be flight director at NASA. She regularly joins us and gives impromptu presentations and talks to our students. Along with the current Director of KSC and an astronaut on 4 Shuttle Missions Robert Cabana, who came onto our minibus to sit and talk to the students.
The participants on this trip are expected to record the experience through diaries and images to allow them to share it with a wider community whilst in America and on their return. On their return the students visit a number of primary schools in their area. They will deliver inspiring assemblies about their visit to NASA. They will also deliver a number of hands-on workshops with the primary students where they will be involved in designing, building and firing their own rockets.
The Aspirations NASA trip provides a focal point for our educational ethos and underpins our key values of self worth, engagement and purpose. Providing our students with real life experience of using and developing further their skills and competences.
– Simon Sterland, Operational Lead for NASA Trips
Read Louise’s impressions of the trip below.
February 11th-21st, myself (Louise), Rosie, Maddie and James all joined several other schools, such as Budmouth and Space Studio West London, on a trip to NASA in Florida and Texas. We stayed in Texas for 5 days, where we attended talks from the leaders of the trip about all of the different launches and rockets that have previously been used to go into space and orbits and landings on the moon, such as the Mercury and Apollo missions. We also looked around Rice University and even had a lecture from Professor David Alexander about exoplanets. We did our own presentations on space with a section related to exoplanets and shared them to the rest of the group. We went to the Johnson Space Centre and also the rocket park in Houston, as well as seeing a real-life Saturn V rocket that was never launched. We had the opportunity to see the mock-up facility where they tested and developed new technologies for the rockets, and held simulations for the astronauts when they start their training. We went to many dinners with people within the space industry including the Lockheed Martin engineers, and we did the same when we relocated to Florida. Once we were in Florida, we saw a real shuttle launch and saw a memorial for people who had died during the missions. We went on a tour around the site of the Kennedy Space Centre, where we saw a launch pad and the vehicle assembly building (which is the tallest single-story building) where they assemble the manufactured parts of a rocket. Whilst on the tour, we got the chance to visit the VR suite where there was a robot to control which could see the exact surroundings you were in, but from a different perspective, then we went inside the tourist section of the Kennedy Space Centre.
The trip was really a once in a lifetime opportunity that I am so grateful that I got the chance to experience this first-hand. It gave me an insight into the number of jobs that are actually available, as I found out about the use for social sciences in space and not just the physical sciences. It made me realise how much is always going on around our universe that we don’t necessarily know about, and it made a huge impact on my understanding of how advanced the technology we have now is. It was eye-opening hearing about the tragedies in the industry as I think it’s important to know that in whatever you do, you may not get it right the first time, and it may do some big damage. We’ve all had a positive change in our confidence from going on the trip, from meeting so many new people and hearing about their work stories and creating our own multimedia presentations.