“Space Camp: More Than Campy Fun”

Posted on July 15, 2013

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Who hasn’t watched Battlestar Galactica and wanted to be Captain Kara “Starbuck” Thrace, intergalactically hotwiring bioengineered Cylon ships in an effort to save the human race? Or totally related to Holly, Fargo, and Parrish in Eureka, as they desperately vie for spots on the Astraeus mission? If this is you, you’re not alone. A majority of kids polled said they wanted to be astronauts when they grew up, at least once in their youth. So popular is this dream that Tang powdered drink mix was marketed to kids as something astronauts drank in space (like it or not), and space shows were popping up on television, left and right. And then there was Space Camp: every kid’s summer fantasy.

space camp logo.pngSpace Camp started in 1982 to encourage greater interest in the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) among children from 4th grade through high school. The program is still going strong today, now including camp programs for youth with families, and adults. Space Academy, and Advanced Space Academy were created for campers who wanted to continue their space education and learn more about careers in space exploration.

Today’s Space Camp has hosted some high-profile campers such as Chelsea Clinton, former President Clinton’s daughter. The guest list may be growing into more of an A-list, but the focus is assuredly still ax+by=c. STEM education is increasingly of importance as we continue to adapt to our environments on a global, and universal scale. President Obama’s Educate to Innovate program inspired NASA’s new Summer of Innovation grants, which aims to “to reach out to kids who normally wouldn’t have access to space-inspired STEM activities” in the middle school age range.

vintage-moonfly.jpgAstronaut and USAF Lieutenant Colonel Cady Coleman gives this advice to would-be future astronauts: “The biggest challenge about being involved in the space program is the need to be able to be good at and know a lot about a lot of things… It’s not just chemistry anymore.” She spoke about her intro and involvement in the Space Program at NASA. She credits her science teachers for giving her enthusiasm for learning chemistry, and Sally Ride for her lecture at MIT for launching her space career path.

Is Space Camp the path for the kid who’s determined to shoot for the stars and reach them? Many NASA employees have Space Camp on their resumes, notably astronaut Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger of the Orbiter Discovery, and astronaut inductees Kathleen Rubins of Cambridge, MA, and Serena Aunon of League City, TX. While many of NASA’s finest are Space Camp alums, it isn’t mentioned in NASA’s requirements for admission into their training program, nor is it implied that completing the program puts an applicant at an advantage over another applicant without the experience.

space camp barbie.jpegBut the experience itself can help a camper discover if this is the right path for them, and some serious students attend Space Camp and the Space Academy more than once, or every year. Space Camp is so popular with kids that it was given out as game show prizes from Nickelodeon and The Price is Right. There was even a “Space Camp Barbie!”

While Starfleet Academy may have been the first choice of your future astronaut, enrollment is so selective that your child won’t ever receive the letter that starts “Welcome…” So give yourself or your kids the logical choice and a similar experience by enrolling them in Space Camp instead. Who knows? Maybe they’ll be the first human to travel faster than light to another planet’s moon.

Kiped from the archives of the SyFy channel’s IdeaLab Blog for the TV show Eureka. Well kinda kiped, since I wrote it to begin with. Edited by Tiffany Lee Brown, without whom I’d be stuck in the land of curly quotes.

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Posted in: science, writing