ALPENA, Mich. — Kids in Northeast Michigan had the chance to work side by side with a former NASA Astronaut at Alpena Community College this week.
Students across Northeast Michigan were at the ACC for Higher Orbits’ “GoForLaunch!” camp. Higher Orbits and the Michigan Aerospace Manufacturers Association teamed up with the ACC’s Trio Talent Search to bring the camp to Alpena.
“These are our future STEM-ists and explorers, our future astronauts, and the future is bright with these students,” said Michelle Lucas, the Founder/Director of Higher Orbits. “They amaze me every day, and I’ll be honest, I’m glad I don’t have to compete with them because they are incredibly smart.”
Students form teams and design experiments they would like to test in space. At the end of the camp, a group of judges picks a winner, and that team gets to compete with other Michigan GoForLaunch teams. The state’s winning experiment will be sent to the International Space Station to be tested in space. But win or lose, this week was about keeping dreams alive.
“The real message is to follow your dreams,” said Dr. Don Thomas, a former astronaut with NASA. “Whatever their dream is in life I want to encourage them to keep after it, never give up on it.”
The kids got to work side by side with Dr. Thomas throughout the camp. Thomas says, as a former astronaut, his job here is to inspire future astronauts.
“In my role, I try to get them inspired,” said Dr. Thomas. “I really would like to see the human race get to Mars. I’m too old for those missions, but maybe I can help them get to Mars by inspiring them.”
With plans for two spaceports to come to Michigan, giving local kids a platform to follow their space exploration dreams has never been more important. The spaceports will be in Oscoda and Marquette, and one day- these kids could end up on the launchpads.
“You can get lost in all the noise,” said Lucas. “So when students have a passion and want to express their passion and creativity its really important that we give them opportunities to do that.”