On Wednesday, Nov. 28, many of Wellington High School’s top science and math students experienced what could be a life-changing experience, participating in a behind-the-scenes education of the Kennedy Space Center and an introduction to life in aerospace engineering.
The trip was made possible by the Jacobs family of Wellington, whose Delaware North Companies is the operator of the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.
“Our family has a long-standing commitment to education at all levels and has supported many academic initiatives focused on research,” Lou Jacobs said. “Knowing the tremendous asset we have in Kennedy Space Center, we’re pleased to offer this opportunity to students in Wellington.”
Two charter buses left WHS at 6 a.m. with 100 top-tier students and their teachers for the once-in-a-lifetime experience. Upon arrival at Kennedy, they were greeted by Capt. John McBride, one of the Space Shuttle program’s astronauts, who shared stories of life as an astronaut.
The day featured customized interactive educational activities designed to teach the science behind rocket launches and an understanding of how humans survive in the vacuum of space. Students experienced motion-based simulators modeled after actual training simulators that astronauts use. And they were exposed to the rich history that is NASA’s by touring the Astronaut Hall of Fame Museum, including highlights from the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo and Shuttle programs.
One highlight was a visit with Chief of Flight Systems Jeff Angermeier, who mapped out the vision for NASA and the next chapter of space exploration, including a focus on reaching Mars.
“This trip fits right in with the goal of having more kids pursue education and careers in the STEM areas of science, technology, engineering and math,” said Wellington Councilman Matt Willhite, who helped organize the trip.
The same experience awaits 100 students from Palm Beach Central High School, who will make the trip on Monday, Dec. 10.
The educators said they hoped their students pursue education and careers linked to the aerospace industry, they said.
“We offered this wonderful opportunity to our most advanced students, and they jumped at the chance to attend,” advanced chemistry teacher Brian Nelson said. “This is exactly the program we were looking for; every student is excited and engaged. Who knows — maybe there could be a future rocket scientist among the group!”
Above: NASA instructor Marty Diaz demonstrates the properties of polymer to absorb moisture at 800 times its weight.