ST NINIAN’S High School student Katy Myers, 17, has just returned from Houston, Texas, after completing a two-week scholarship with the NASA United Space School. Here she reveals how the opportunity came about, the focus of the trip, the people she met and how it has inspired her to forge ahead with plans in the space industry.
The first time I heard about the NASA United Space School (USS) was while I was sat in my school’s lecture theatre, listening to a girl in my tutor group relive her experiences during a presentation to my year. She had won a competition sponsored by ManSat – an aerospace company based in the island – whereby each year two Manx students win scholarships to take part in the USS, based in Houston, Texas.
The summer school gathers ambassadors from countries around the world, roughly between the ages of 15 and 18, and brings them together for two weeks of space education.
The competition comprised writing three essays between 500 and 1,000 words, and three months after I had handed them in, I was called into my head of sixth form, Mr Corke’s office. He handed me his phone and on the other end was Ian Jarritt, a representative of ManSat, who told me I had won the scholarship.
The next four months flew by, all the while arranging and preparing for the trip ahead. After celebrations with family and friends, completing some rather complicated preliminary assignments, including calculating the thrust of a rocket engine, and finishing my AS examinations, it was time to head off to the airport along with my fellow scholar Rosie Watson, from Ramsey Grammar.
We arrived in a very hot and humid Houston, and promptly parted ways to meet the people we would be living with for the next two weeks. I was living with the Bordelon family, along with fellow students Sally from New Zealand and Alejandra from Bolivia.
Based at the University of Houston, Clear Lake, Bayou Building, the challenge presented to the 42 students was to construct a fully planned (as if to be executed) mission to Mars. We were split off into five collaborative teams to manage specific areas. This was not a light-hearted space camp – this was a serious international school.
Yet it wasn’t all work, as a typical day in the packed two-week schedule consisted of a morning of lectures from industry professionals (and even astronauts including Dr Leroy Chiao, formerly commander of the International Space Station), field trips out to companies and museums, including Ad Astra and Space Center Houston, and activities in the evening, such as competing against the NASA All Stars at ‘soccer’, stargazing in the countryside, visiting an amusement boardwalk, watching the Houston Dynamos play ‘soccer’ and pool parties. There was even a cultural showcase after the first week, where students watched each other perform talents specific to their countries and exchanged cultural gifts from all around the globe. I cooked biscuits with Manx ingredients while Rosie cooked Manx bun loaf. We both wore Manx tartan sashes and recited the story of the birth of the island – where the Irish giant Finn MacCooil threw a rock (aimed at Manannan) into the Irish Sea and that became the Isle of Man. We also handed out small Manx flags and badges featuring the Three Legs.
The two weeks culminated in each team presenting their plans to the board of directors, along with a graduation ceremony.
The USS provided me with not just a detailed insight into how the space industry works and taught me a lot academically, but it also exposed me to other cultures and ways of living, ignited my curiosity to learn more about science and gave me a determination to work within the space industry in the future.
Yet, perhaps most importantly, I met extraordinary people from all walks of life around the world. Industry professionals, astronauts, members of host families, mentors, and students all make up some of the people I have established connections and lifelong friendships with. They helped create the best two weeks of my life so far.
This life-changing opportunity couldn’t have been possible without the support of individuals both on and off-island. I would like to offer particular thanks to those from the island who gave me inspiration, namely ManSat chairman Chris Stott and his astronaut wife Nicole, Ian Jarritt for giving me the opportunity, Mr Corke for all of his help and my parents for all of their support.
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Weather for Isle of Man
Tuesday 21 May 2013
Temperature: 8 C to 13 C
Wind Speed: 24 mph
Wind direction: North west
Temperature: 6 C to 12 C
Wind Speed: 23 mph
Wind direction: North west