STEM program credited with rare space camp opportunity

UP AND AWAY: Canobolas Rural Technology High School students Mark Selmes and Ella Draper. Photo: JUDE KEOGH 0329jkspace2
UP AND AWAY: Canobolas Rural Technology High School students Mark Selmes and Ella Draper. Photo: JUDE KEOGH 0329jkspace2

TWO of Canobolas Rural Technology High School’s students will experience a gravity chair, build a rocket and access some of the greatest minds in space exploration thanks to its leading curriculum.

Mark Selmes and Ella Draper will travel to the US Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama in July, where they will take part in an all expenses-paid camp for six days. 

The pair both said they were excited to attend.

“And nervous at the same time,” Ella said. 

Ella, who is currently in year 7, said she wanted to gain a better understanding of space.

“It’s not the one environment you’ve been in your whole life, it’s a different perspective,” she said.

“I want to be an astronaut or a doctor.”

Mark, in year 8, wants to become a pilot – he attends Orange Aero Club meetings, helps out tidying the hangar and washing the planes, and helped refuel the helicopters during the Mount Canobolas bushfire.

“I want to go to the camp to better my knowledge on atmosphere and altitude,” he said. 

Both are part of the school’s STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) program, which received a commendation for an outstanding school initiative at the Minister’s Awards for Excellence in 2016.

STEM teacher Matt Scott said Northrop Grumman, one of the US’s premier space agencies, identified the school as the leading STEM school in NSW after it, paving the way for a partnership with its Australian arm.

“They only invited four students from Australia – two from our school and two from Victoria,” Mr Scott said.

“It gives you an idea of the significance of the opportunity.”

Mr Scott said he hoped to maintain ties with Northrop Grumman as the school had with other industries in the area, working with them to ensure students learned the right skills to pursue careers and allow them to address students directly. 

The school selected the successful students based on a video or essay featuring why they wanted to attend space camp, what they hoped to gain from the experience and how they would share what they learned with their peers.

“We were really happy with the quality and calibre of the entries,” Mr Scott said.

The unsuccessful students will receive a behind-the-scenes tour of the Parkes telescope to reward them for their entries. 

Mr Scott will also travel with Ella and Mark to attend a teacher’s version of the camp. 

The students will keep a blog during their trip and Mark said he wanted to complete a project on it for his Big Picture class.