Black Mountain pupils tour space center

GOLDEN VALLEY – Two pupils from Black Mountain School toured the Kennedy Space Center during a trip to a student symposium in Florida.

Eighth-grader Andrew Baran and fourth-grader Michelle Finis were accompanied by principal Scott Rhoades on the May 9-12 trip for pupils from National Aeronautics and Space Administration Explorer Schools.

Black Mountain is in the second year of a three-year partnership program with NASA.

Club sponsors selected two pupils for the trip, Rhoades said.

Andrew went as a representative of the Lego robotics league at the school.

Michelle was chosen as representative of the NASA club at Black Mountain.

"What I most enjoyed was visiting EPCOT in Orlando," Andrew said.

"They have a Mission Space ride, which simulates like you're really going into space."

EPCOT stands for Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow.

It was hard for her to single out any one activity she liked more than others, Michelle said.

In addition to a tour of the space center, the two pupils and Rhoades had lunch with an astronaut one day and breakfast with two astronauts another day,

"It all started with an Imax 3-D presentation on a giant screen showing astronauts on the International Space Station," Rhoades explained.

"We also saw the launch pads, Vehicle Assembly Building, a Saturn V booster rocket, several smaller rockets and the kids did several hands-on science-based activities with NASA teachers."

There are 50 NASA Explorer Schools nationwide this year and that number will expand to 100 next year.

At the student symposium, children from all of the schools shared their NASA experiences of the preceding year, Rhoades said.

"I told them all about our projects in the NASA club," Michelle said.

"We worked on airplanes and kites.

"They told us about a bunch of trips they'd went on.

Some of them went to a space camp."

The space camp was held in Canada, Andrew said.

"I did some presentations of things we'd done in the past that tie in with NASA," Andrew said.

"I demonstrated the Lego tournament we participated in which was similar to setting up a colony on Mars."

The NASA Explorer Schools program also recognized ClearOneCommunications for donating videoconferencing equipment.

The equipment enhanced students' learning by connecting them to NASA field centers around the country as part of NASA's Digital Learning Network, a press release stated.