STEM Students Visit Kennedy Space Center

Some of the brightest high school minds from Wellington and Palm Beach Central high schools explored America’s space program recently through customized field trips to the Kennedy Space Center.

Approximately 150 students from each school enrolled in challenging STEM education classes learned first-hand what space travel is like from astronauts John O. Creighton and Robert Springer. The students toured the Space Shuttle Atlantis and experienced shuttle flight for themselves through the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex’s Shuttle Launch Experience.

“It was really cool. I felt like I was a real astronaut going into space,” Wellington High School’s Shannon Gaffney said.

The customized trip was designed to challenge the students enrolled in the most challenging math, science and engineering classes. The students study Advanced Placement chemistry, physics, pre-calculus, calculus and engineering. The Kennedy Space Center’s instructional staff worked with the Wellington teachers to put together the adventure. The day’s activities also included a tour of a Saturn V rocket used in NASA’s Apollo and Skylab programs, an information “scavenger” hunt through the Rocket Garden, and an air rocket build and test launch.

This is the second school year that students from Wellington’s two high schools have taken the trip, underwritten by Wellington resident Jeremy Jacobs, whose Delaware North Companies is the operator of the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.

“This experience is the epitome of why I teach,” WHS teacher Brian Nelson said. “I’ve been teaching chemistry for 10 years, and this experience makes the kids want to understand why the concepts we study make a difference.”

Teachers also see the possibility of students choosing careers related to the space program because of the trip. Palm Beach Central’s lead engineering instructor Abby Elder was glad her students had the opportunity to see engineering at work.

“It was a great experience for my students to see how many opportunities they have right here in Florida,” Elder said.

ABOVE: Palm Beach Central High School students in the rocket garden.