One Pickens teacher got an up close encounter with shuttle Atlantis and other NASA orbiters, thanks to the generosity of Honeywell employees.
The Honeywell Educators at Space Academy Scholarship program sends Middle School Science and Math teachers to Space Camp each year.
Pickens Middle School math teacher Megan Cole attended Space Academy previously, thanks to the Honeywell program.
This year, Honeywell sent Cole to their Advanced Space Camp.
Cole was selected through her creative application of tips and lesson plans provided to her during her first Space Camp experience.
“After you go to Space Camp, the first time, you take the information they’ve give you, the lesson plans and the resources and you document what you’ve done with it and make a portfolio.”
Cole created a scrap book highlighting the ways she incorporated the Space Program and the STEM — Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics — initiative.
“There’s a big push for STEM education in the school district, and with the space program as well,” Cole said. “It encourages kids to go into those fields.”
Cole’s incorporation of space program lessons included her work with SPARKS Robotics team, decorating her class with space-themed materials, building lessons around space, and working with the Pickens Rotary Club to send students to Space Camp themselves.
The educators sent to Advanced Space Camp were a select group. Out of thousands of applicants, only 28 were selected.
Cole learned she was going to Advanced Space Camp in March. She spent June 17-June 25 at the advanced camp, which included trips to both the U.S. Space and Rocket Center and the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
While in Florida, the group spent time at the Educator Resource Center.
“We learned more that we could use in our classroom,” Cole said.
The ride from Huntsville to Florida turned into a brainstorming session for the educators.
“We were constantly rotating seats and sharing ideas with each other,” Cole said. “We all had notebooks out, writing down ideas with each other. There was a lot of collaboration going on.”
Cole and the group were given a rare opportunity — seeing three of NASA’s orbiters in one spot.
“We went into the Vehicle Assembly Building,” she said. “Atlantis had already been assembled and was sitting on the launch pad. “We got to walk underneath Discovery, which was being decommissioned.”
Shuttle Discovery will soon be at its new home, the Air and Space Museum.
The group also got to see Endeavor.
“They were removing the engines,” she said. “They’re going to save the $90 million engines for future use.”
Later, the group’s bus took them on a loop around the VAB, Cole said.
“We got to see Atlantis on the launch pad,” she said. “That was a huge, huge experience for us.”
The group also saw the memorial to Columbia and learned that NASA is using the remnants of that shuttle — which broke apart on re-entry Feb. 1, 2003, killing all seven of its crew — to help build safer vehicles.
“They learned from Challenger,” she said. “After the Challenger disaster, the remnants were buried. So if they want to experiment on the shuttle remains, they couldn’t, because they were all buried.
“After the accident with Columbia, they brought the remnants back to the Vehicle Assembly Building, to improve the safety of the vehicles,” Cole continued.
Cole knows she was at the Space Center at a rare moment in history — the close of NASA’s shuttle program.
“That was the highlight of the trip for me, going down to Florida and seeing those orbiters,” Cole said. “The chances of anyone on prior space camps or any future camps seeing three orbiters together are pretty slim.”
Cole said she’s thankful for the generosity of Honeywell employees, who made the trip possible.
“Honeywell paid for me to go down there, all expenses paid,” she said. “It was such a great experience. I’m so grateful that their employees did this for me.”