Space camp isn’t just for nerds anymore

Sam Student, of Marlton, New Jersey, recently attended 12-Day Advanced Space Academy at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, NASA’s official Visitor Information Center for Marshall Spaceflight Center. The educational camp program promotes science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), while training students and adults with hands-on activities and missions based on teamwork, leadership and decision-making.

The two-week camp is a special program for high school students who are interested in aerospace and science. Students must first complete an advanced six-day program before enrolling in the 12-day. Student spent the week training with a team who flew a simulated Space Shuttle mission to the International Space Station (ISS). Once aboard the ISS, the crew participated in experiments and successfully completed an extra-vehicular activity (EVA), or space walk. Sam and his crew returned to Earth in time to hear retired Space Shuttle astronaut, Robert “Hoot” Gibson, speak at their graduation.

Student is a senior at Cherokee High School where he is active in his school Robotics Team. He is active in raising guide dogs for the blind, and is co-captain of the township bike team, Team Evesham. He was recently honored by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society for record fundraising, and he was a top 25 fundraiser in the 2010 City to Shore Bike Ride.

His interests include engineering and technology, and his future plans are to work in the aerospace industry.

Space Camp crew trainers who lead each 16-member team must have at least a year of college and 67 percent of the 2011 staff are college graduates. Space Camp operates year-round in Huntsville, Ala., and uses astronaut training techniques to engage trainees in real-world applications of STEM subjects. Students sleep in quarters designed to resemble the ISS and train in simulators like those used by NASA.

More than 560,000 trainees have graduated from Space Camp since its opening in Huntsville in 1982, including STS-131 astronaut Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger. Last year, children and teachers from all 50 states and 58 international locations attended Space Camp.