Teen takes off at Alabama’s Space Academy


Amy Bartlett considers herself a “space geek.”

A veteran of the Honeywell Educators at Space Academy, Bartlett was thrilled when her 14-year-old daughter, Alyssa, was accepted to a companion program for kids this year at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

“In 2008, when Alyssa was 5, I attended the Space Academy on a Honeywell scholarship,” said Bartlett, who earned a master’s in space studies with an emphasis in planetary sciences from the University of North Dakota. She teaches in the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College at ASU.

“I was blown away by it. I was so inspired by the program to teach teachers about STEM education. We brought back lessons to implement within our classrooms. Some of that may have rubbed off on her. I think that’s what made her interested in going when she was older. I’m glad Alyssa has the space geekiness that I have.”

An incoming freshman at Agua Fria High School, the teen was part of the Space Academy program, which is designed for students who have an interest in space exploration.

More than 750,000 trainees have graduated from Space Camp since its inception in Alabama in 1982, including STS-131 astronaut Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger, European Space Agency astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti and NASA Expedition 48 astronaut Dr. Kate Rubins. Last year, children and teachers from all 50 states and 69 international locations attended.

As part of her application, Alyssa had to answer two essay questions, design a mission patch, describe a science project using the scientific method and provide two letters of recommendation. She reported on the effects of vinegar on an egg.

She received an academic scholarship to attend Space Academy for exceling academically and participating in a gifted program.

Alyssa’s weeklong educational program promoted science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), and trained students and adults with hands-on activities and missions based on teamwork, leadership and problem solving.

She spent the week training with a team that flew a simulated space mission to Mars. The crew participated in experiments and successfully completed an extra-vehicular activity (EVA), or spacewalk, and returned to Earth in time to graduate with honors.

“We experienced many different simulators,” she said. “They had a chair that simulated the reduced gravity on the moon. They also had a simulator that spun you in all directions, as if you were going out of control.”

Her daily experiences reinforced the lessons she was learning.

“We went to many presentations,” she said. “We listened to people who worked for places that helped build things for NASA. We listened to (retired astronaut) Clay Anderson and heard about his experiences, which was really great. “

The group also worked on their respective missions, which mirrored lunar or shuttle endeavors. Each had its own mission control setup.

The weeklong program was a learning experience for Alyssa.

“I think I learned the most about teamwork and team building,” said Alyssa, who hopes to intern at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “That is really important. I know with high school and the rest of my future career, it’s going to be very important to work with other people.

“I did get a lot of experience, as well, dealing with more scientific things. And, I know that Space Camp is going to look good on any resume.”