In April, 151 intrepid Wisconsin 4-H’ers, 15 bold youth counselors and 20 brave adult advisors went on a mission. That mission was to travel to a place many young people dream of: Space Camp.
Founded in 1982, Space Camp is located at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama, a 14-hour bus ride from Wisconsin. One of the first science camps, Space Camp uses the U.S. Space Program as a means to promote science, technology, engineering and math — known as STEM — to young people.
This experience was Bridget Dean’s third time at Space Camp. Dean, the 15-year-old vice president of the Washington County 4-H Leaders Association Board, participated in a weekend-long robotics camp while also leading activities for younger campers.
She and her fellow youth counselors programmed Lego Robotics Mindstorms bots using a computer program. They ran the robots through an obstacle course that included levers and buttons that activated devices like lights, doors and conveyor belts.
“It was a really fantastic teamwork exercise and showed what our team had been practicing the past days as counselors,” Bridget says.
Bridget explained that NASA uses robots to explore areas humans are incapable of journeying to. NASA robots also produce rockets, conduct research and make repairs outside of the International Space Station.
Bridget’s Space Camp experiences have led her to consider studying aeronautics.
“Since camp, I have been finding opportunities to learn about airplanes, pilots’ licenses, air camps, and even the Air Force,” Bridget says. “Before Space Camp, I never would have thought about flight and space being my passion!”
While Bridget built robots, a “crew trainers” guided younger Wisconsin 4-H Space Campers through the same tests that astronauts use to prepare for space missions, teaching them about STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) along the way. The 11 teams built and launched rockets and anti-gravity and moonwalk simulators. This training helped them on their simulated space mission.
The groups each worked together in different roles: mission control directed the astronauts who worked together to solve problems during the mission while other team members performed a spacewalk. The Wisconsin 4-H teams capped off the weekend with a Space Bowl quiz contest on what they’d learned through the weekend.
During their stay at Space Camp Wisconsin 4-H’ers had the opportunity to see real space vehicles. They visited the Rocket Boneyard, a collection of decommissioned rockets from past NASA space missions. The center’s museum houses the actual spacecraft used on the U.S.’s first human spaceflight program, Project Mercury, from 1985-1963, as well as a replica of the International Space Station
For more information about Wisconsin 4-H STEM programs, visit this link and contact your local club or county 4-H educator by clicking on this link