Students take a look at Enterprise in Space and give their impression
By: Frances Dellutri
On a cold winter’s day in Chicagoland, eighty-five 7th graders (ages 12 – 13) were given the opportunity to view the Enterprise in Space (EIS) website (www.enterpriseinspace.org) and discuss their impressions of the website and program. It was great fun to see the students shake off the winter sluggishness and come alive with ideas, questions, and the possibilities about the EIS program!
Joey and Jack each gave two thumbs up for the EIS website, enjoyed looking at the design submissions and were having fun imagining themselves being on board the orbiter themselves. They recalled an experiment they did with baking soda and vinegar and wondered how that would react in zero gravity (accompanied by gestures and uproarious laughter)!
April’s group really enjoyed their conversation. April started by saying she thinks programs like EIS allow students to just try anything and not be restricted by what’s happened in prior experiments because students ‘think outside the box’ and waved her arms as far apart as she could, indicating just how far out of the box students can be! Joyclyn mentioned that most of her learning to this point had been about our planet and the science happening on Earth. She felt EIS would give her an opportunity to learn about moving her focus beyond our planet. Jordan backed her up and said how cool it would be for scientists to discover or find something new as a result of an experiment designed by a student.
The implication that EIS would give students a chance to build or put together an experiment with other student ideas was interesting to Tiana and Amanda . EIS encourages global collaboration and the girls really thought it would be so much fun to watch the project come to a reality with the input of students of their own age living outside the US. In another class, I talked to Matt about the opportunity to design an experiment with someone located somewhere else on the Earth. Matt thinks it would be awesome to collaborate with someone from a different part of the globe. He would look forward to finding a way to communicate with them to understand their culture and what they were thinking as the experiment design came to life and maybe he would even learn some of their language! So, for Matt the project would become a very personal journey.
I saw a very pensive reaction to viewing the website when Alexis, Mollie and Rachel talked about how cool it would be for students to be in charge of an experiment from start to finish and be able to analyze their results. They felt adults lead them in activities most of the time and they really liked the idea of being able to follow their own experiment from start to final analysis.
Some students were interested in designing an orbiter themselves and took turns adding elements to the emerging drawing in a round robin activity. As the paper was moving around they talked about different experiments that might involve different curriculum. Natalie and Jesus thought an experiment that involved math would be cool. Jesus was interested in the information that would come back for him to analyze. The activity triggered a group of girls to ask each other questions about space. They wondered about finding out more about asteroids, space dust, and why comets last for so long. Ryleigh and Reagan loved the idea of being involved in ‘something real.’
Corey said, “Every little kid wants to be an astronaut and EIS gives an opportunity for them to follow their dreams by doing some science in space.” Matthew felt that the project might start a new future, “kids will be able to have the freedom to think of something to do in space and their ideas will be taken into space and taken seriously. It would be very different than today’s world.”
Conner was intrigued by the program because he watches some space programs and the EIS project seems , “wow, so clever and I’d like to be a part of it! Other programs are more like a science fantasy. This program is like ‘wow’ because it brings it alive to kids. When programs are by and for adults they are just not as interesting to kids. This one sounds really great!” Conner’s teammate, Sammy was interested to see how something blows up in space!
Steven felt there was a great combination – he loves science fiction and he loves science and EIS is bringing them both together, so as he brought two fingers together to make one he said, ” I love it both!” Steven said this sounds weird, but he would fly a pizza up there, plug in a camera and see if the pizza rots or flakes or molds or something.” He said he’s not sure how far in the future the flight would be, but he hopes by then he could plug a DVD on board and then make a device to go into his head to see what’s going on in the orbiter. I spoke to Steven about e-Mind. EIS is partnering with e-Mind, a system that will be able to cognitively weave together the information of the payload experiments and information about their current status. E-Mind is being designed to be able to discuss the status of the payload and/or experiments with students as EIS is in orbit. Steven then imagined that e-Mind might report (in a very robotic voice) ‘your pizza is being very good in space!’ E-Mind is anticipated to actually have a personality and have capabilities much beyond what Steven is imagining.
The overall message to me from the interviews I conducted was student open- mindedness and their excitement and readiness to reach for the future, to imagine, and to create. These students are the new generation of space engineers, astronauts, plumbers, judges, teachers, artists, politicians, etc. Enterprise in Space allows a natural pathway for their footsteps.
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