Aaron Eling, who teaches fifth grade at White Pines Intermediate School, was one of 224 teachers from 45 states and 35 countries who participated in the Honeywell Educators at Space Academy last month.
While at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama, the educators spent a week in the classroom, lab and training as they participated in hands-on activities for science and space exploration.
“It was a unique experience,” Eling said.
Eling learned about the opportunity from a student’s parent who works for Honeywell, and applied to attend the program, which was offered in two weeklong sessions.
In February, Eling received notification he was accepted into the academy and a scholarship that covered all of his costs.
Eling said they were given tasks and it was up to them to determine how to achieve the end result.
One of the activities the educators completed was called the “Eggs-Prize Challenge.” They had to build a rover that would fit inside a lander, which was dropped from a two-story height. The lander has to land within a diameter of a hula-hoop without breaking the egg in the rover. Once the lander was dropped, it also needed to travel the longest distance.
The group had constraints on materials and a 30-minute time limit.
The educators also went through some astronaut training. While in a zero-gravity machine that simulated the moon’s surface, Eling said they had to maintain their focus and figure out how to move.
The educators also participated in a simulated space walk, where they were challenged to tether themselves and fix part of the “Space Station.”
In addition to class and lab time, the educators listened to guest speakers such as Homer Hickam, who wrote the memoir “Rocket Boys,” and Ed Buckbee.
Eling said he formed relationships with educators from around the world. His group came from Indonesia, China, Turkey and the United Kingdom. Eling said he and an Indonesian teacher plan to find a way their classrooms can work on a joint project.
Eling said he’s excited that his students will benefit from his experience at the space camp.