Students Meet with Space Science Experts (By Russell Glenn, Environmental Sciences and Honors Inquiry Program Instructor)

On Friday, November 15, Jake Cameron, Bennett Eichorst, and Daniel Pinzon traveled to the Bob Bullock Museum to participate in the first annual “Cities in Space Leadership Summit.” This program, organized by local nonprofit STEAM-SPACE, aims to provide these students with leadership training geared towards the annual “Cities in Space” competition held in Austin.
The “Cities in Space” competition challenges students to research, design, and present a space colony on the Moon, Mars or in free space. Their projects are judged by professionals in the space science field. The leadership summit allowed the students to meet in small groups with these professionals to find out what it will take to truly have humans living in space for long periods of time. 

The morning began with a presentation from Rachel Tillman, the Founder, Executive Director and Curator of the Viking Mars Missions Education and Preservation Project. Following this presentation, students were able to meet in small groups with professionals like:
  • Leon Vanstone Ph.D., Aerospace Engineering - University of Texas at Austin
  • Philip Metzger, Ph.D., Planetary Scientist - Florida Space Institute and University of Central Florida
  • Julia Savchenko, Ph.D.,Technical Consultant - Urban Mining Co.
  • Ed Tovar, Firefly Academy - Firefly Aerospace, and 
  • Natally Mendez, K-12 STEM Outreach Coordinator, Environmental Science Institute, University of Texas at Austin
These meetings allowed the students to learn about the jobs that these professionals do and to ask detailed questions about their work.

Additional presentations were given by professional educators, including St. Michael’s Russ Glenn, Environmental Sciences and Honors Inquiry Program Instructor, who presented on using the NASA Trek programs to evaluate the resources available to colonists on the Moon and Mars. The NASA Trek programs are Geographic Information Systems (GIS) programs that house all of the data collected by NASA and JPL. 

The day finished up with an IMAX screening of Apollo 11 and some free time for the students to visit the Bullock Museum special exhibits, Beyond Planet Earth and Cowboys in Space. Bennett, Daniel, and Jake especially enjoyed the “Terraforming Mars” simulator where they were challenged to find ways to change the atmosphere of Mars so that the planet’s temperature would rise to allow for settlement. 

These students and others will be able to compete in the “Cities in Space” competition in February. Students enrolled in the “Cities in Space” Winter Term course will be working together to design their colonies and hopefully bring home another trophy for the school!