The energy in the gym was palpable. Auburn Middle School students were so excited to meet and hear Maine’s own astronaut, Chris Cassidy! Space Day was off to a grand start. The anticipation had been building over the past few weeks. Students had gone online and identified 5 mini sessions they would like to attend from 19 possibilities. Each student would be able to go to 3 of their picks.
The choices of mini-sessions included:
- EarthKAM presented by students from Brunswick Junior High School
- What’s Out There? Exploring the outer solar system
- Mars as described by Ron Dyer from the Mars Desert Research Station
- Living and Working in Space–No Shower, No Shoes, No Problem
- Engineering–Your Ticket to Space and Beyond allowed students to simulate the work of an engineer
- Robots Are Everywhere–even here in Maine!
- Come Fly Away with paper airplanes to explore the forces that make flight possible
- If You Build It demonstrates what civil engineering is all about
The assembly opened with Principal Jim Hand welcoming students and guests. Representatives from Senators Susan Collins & Angus King, Representative Mike Michaud, and the Maine Department of Education followed with greetings and wishes for an extraordinary day.
Of course, Astronaut Chris Cassidy was the main attraction of the whole school assembly. A former Navy Seal who served in Afghanistan and the Mediterranean, Chris was selected by NASA in 2004 for astronaut training. While on the International Space Station, he completed 6 spacewalks.
During his talk he shared with students a video which vividly showed what life is like in space. Afterwards he invited students to ask questions. Hands shot up immediately. One perceptive question related to how the astronauts handled altercations in space. Chris replied that the training and work required collaboration at the highest level and that personal disagreements really were not an issue.
After the assembly students and teachers went off to their various mini-sessions.
At the Engineering–Your Ticket to Space and Beyond session presented by Shelia Pendse from the University of Maine’s School of Engineering, students learned about creating prototypes and testing them by trying to build the tallest free-standing marshmallow tower.
Students watch the flight of a paper airplane as Art Philbrick from the Civil Air Patrol explains how a fold here and a tuck there will make it fly straighter and longer.
Sailors from the USS Zumwalt came up from Bath Iron Works to lead students in hands-on activities: launching your own rocket, making UV bracelets, and examining space rocks.
Sharon Eggleston is the Northeast Regional Coordinator for Space Day. She shared that 7000 students across Maine participated in some sort of Space Day activity this year. If you are interested in learning more about Space Day and how your school might participate you can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
At the end of the day, Carl Bucciantini, Auburn Middle School coordinator for Space Day rolls his cart of supplies back to his office knowing the staff and students alike enjoyed a day of learning and exploration!