World space-skills cup stars

Tamra CarrGeraldton Guardian
Jacob Warhurst and Caius Whitley do a mock spacewalk.
Camera IconJacob Warhurst and Caius Whitley do a mock spacewalk. Credit: Supplied/Supplied, Supplied.

The US State of Alabama has awarded Geraldton Senior College students the Commander’s Cup in recognition of the school outperforming more than 900 students from around the world in a series of space-skill activities.

Principal Greg Kelly, who attended the camp, said his students were also the first people ever to complete a three-hour Mission to Mars challenge.

To put it in context, about 35,000 children attend space camp a year, totalling about 800,000 attendees since the program’s inception.

“I’ve seen some fantastic student achievements in my years, but this was truly inspirational,” Mr Kelly said.

Five students, Mr Kelly and the school’s head of science Claire MacPherson visited the US Space & Rocket Center after winning the international trip in a lottery.

They joined other children in learning about space and simulating the actions of NASA employees during rocket launches, landings and missions.

After disembarking from a 38-hour flight to the US and arriving at the centre, students were given roles and placed into multiple scenarios.

Situations included living on Mars’ moon Phobos, performing space-flight calculations from a NASA control centre and launching the Orion spacecraft.

Obstacles and breakdowns were also thrown at students to test their ability to think and act in tense and unexpected circumstances.

The Geraldton Senior College students received the most points across all activities, earning them the coveted Commander’s Cup.

To earn the American trip, students had to have strong school attendance, an 80 per cent average in science tests, and write an application about why they should be chosen.

Ms MacPherson said selecting students for the excursion had been difficult.

“When we renewed our education software at school, we were entered into this competition and we ended up winning the trip,” she said.

“To go, students had to have really good attendance and high academic standards.

“They also had to write a letter to explain why they were the best person to go and what it would mean to them.

“There were some excellent applications.

“It was so difficult to chose.”

When Americans got a whiff of the Aussie accent, Ms MacPherson said students were inundated with questions about kangaroos and Vegemite.

“By the end of it, we wished we had brought some Tim Tams over,” she joked.

According to Ms MacPherson, the flight back home took some 40 hours.

Caius Whitley Teaching Americans Australian slang, such as grog and servo. Also, capsicum because they say bell peppers over there. I definitely confused the person serving me at Subway.

Jasmine Anderson The toilets over there flush the opposite way. All the food for space is dehydrated, it’s pretty gross.

Jacob Warhurst We climbed up and jumped off a big pole. They told us it was 481 gummy bears tall. They didn’t actually say how tall it was in the usual measurements.

Callum May They sent a monkey up into space and it was trained to press a button for food, but the wiring was done wrong, so every time the monkey pressed the button, it got zapped. Once it was finally back on Earth, it starting flinging its faeces at everyone.

Casey Baldwin Some astronauts don’t strap themselves in when they sleep, so they just float around while they’re unconscious and end up in different places when they wake up.

Claire MacPherson The students went scuba diving and played basketball underwater with a bowling ball to simulate what it’s like in space.

Greg Kelly The students had a robotics challenge where they had to build and program a robot. They also met an astronaut.

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