Most people only know about space flight from what they see in the movies or on their television screens. But, high school students from around Florida got a chance to fly a shuttle like the pros over the weekend at the Tallahassee Regional Airport.
Landing a space shuttle is no easy task, as I learned first-hand. But, for high school students across the state, it something they’ve been preparing for all year. Pompano Beach High School student Wheeler Brown described what he did to prepare.
“We’ve been preparing for this since September so it’s been months and months, we spent about a month preparing a medical presentation, and we’ve been studying the electrical systems for a few months now, so it’s been taking the entire school year really,” Brown said.
This is the competition’s second year and it all started as a way to get kids interested in STEM programs, or science, technology, engineering and math. Event organizer Christoph Reglat said the competition is multi-faceted.
“This competition is about flying the shuttle, teamwork, communication. They have to do an engineering challenge which is all about math and they have to do a scientific presentation and this year they’re going to do a brain bowl, where they’re asked questions about aviation,” Reglat laid out.
After the questions and presentations the students get to climb inside the dim, cramped quarters of a realistic replica of a shuttle cock pit, while another group of students assume control of a mission control station. The teams must be able to communicate with each other and successfully land the shuttle on a runway. Matt Porter, an engineer who helped build the simulator, points out that the shuttle is made up of many different components.
“So basically we just went step by step and we kind of said well we know we want these computers here and these computers here and then we just kind of little at a time, added it all in. We added the switches in afterwards, because technically these are all just dummy switches, but they light up the lights and that’s pretty much all, but the kids know they have to hit each one at a different time,” Porter said.
The team that wins out of the more than 200 students will be given a free trip to Universal Studios in Orlando and a behind the scenes tour of the Kennedy Space Center. Organizers hope the event continues to grow and that more students will be inspired to take up careers in STEM fields.