NASA trip a blast for students

Published 10:08 pm Monday, May 9, 2011

Mack Benn Jr. Elementary School fifth-graders Emily Marlin, left, and Laura Brooks, along with their gifted resource teacher Elizabeth Petry, attended the NASA Explorer Schools Student Symposium at the Kennedy Space Center May 4 through May 7.

Two Mack Benn Jr. Elementary School fifth-graders and their teacher had a weekend that was out of this world, spending it at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Gifted resource teacher Elizabeth Petry and students Emily Marlin and Laura Brooks represented Mack Benn at the NASA Explorer Schools Student Symposium May 4-7.

“It reflects well on the school,” Petry said. “It shows that we are doing some wonderful things at Mack Benn.”

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Petry said the symposium packed with activities from 7 a.m. until 8:30 p.m.

“It was a tremendous experience,” she said.

Petry said it also was a good opportunity because NASA covered all costs for her and the students to attend.

They got the chance to tour many different NASA locations, such as the Saturn 5 building, the Astronaut Hall of Fame and the shuttle launch pad. The three also participated in experiences like an IMAX film, a shuttle launch simulator and question-and-answer web casts with NASA astronauts and scientists.

Laura said her favorite experience at the symposium was the shuttle launch simulator.

“My favorite part was jumping around in it and driving it,” she said.

Emily liked learning about the shuttles and the work that goes into launching them.

Emily and Laura agreed they were most interested in learning about the space shuttle Challenger disaster in 1986.

The symposium also offered the girls the chance to try a G-Force experience that simulated the extreme forces by spinning the vehicle around while the riders watched a movie.

“That was the longest four minutes of my life,” Laura said.

Marlin and Brooks were two of only 70 students who were chosen from 35 NASA Explorer Schools across the country to participate.

They entered the selection pool by presenting results of an experiment they conducted based on a NASA-related topic.

Petry said she was interested in the competition because it was good opportunity for her students, but she never imagined being selected.

“At the time, I was like, ‘This will be cool,’ with no idea we would go to the big production,” she said.

The girls also presented the findings of their experiment of yeast temperature tolerance at the symposium in front of peers, teachers and NASA scientists.

Petry said they handled themselves very well, even when faced with tough questions from seasoned professionals.

“They got to ask us questions, and we knew most of the answers,” Emily said.

Petry said she wanted to participate in NASA Explorer Schools program to challenge the gifted students on a new level and maybe help shape future NASA scientists.

Emily said she wants to have a career in science.

“I think it would be an interesting career,” she said.

Laura already has decided she wants to work for NASA, either at the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge near the launch pad or as an astronaut.

“I just want to go up in space; it seems cool,” she said. “I’m so tired of this world; let’s go into space.”