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Determined to go to Space: CMS Bulldogs experience U.S. Space Camp over the summer

Treyton Kealalio-Puli, Julia Shotwell, and Marely Esquivel attend Space Camp

Two Columbia Middle School students and a CMS science teacher went through the ultimate space adventure this summer, participating in activities such as building and launching rockets, experiencing weightlessness in an astronaut-training simulator and simulating space travel preparation.

The trip was made possible by the Northrop Grumman Foundation, which provided scholarships for a total of 80 students and 48 teachers to attend Space Camp from Sunday, July 24 – Friday, July 29, 2016.  This was the eighth year that the Northrop Grumman Foundation has sponsored students and teachers from across the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia to attend the Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama.

The sponsorship is part of the Northrop Grumman Foundation’s K-12 Initiative, which aims to advance excellence in STEM education by encouraging and supporting students and teachers from elementary school through high school.

While the students were busy designing a lunar base or learning about the Gemini and Apollo missions, their science teacher, Julia Shotwell, attended the Space Academy for Educators, a program designed to provide teachers the tools to enhance how they use STEM concepts in their classrooms.

CMS Science Teacher Julia Shotwell participates in Space Camp along with her students for a week this summer.

“We had our own Space Camp for educators, so we did the same activities as the students but from an educator’s perspective,” Shotwell said. “We got to talk to NASA employees about some of their educational resources as well.”

Shotwell even got the rocket she made signed by NASA engineer Homer H. Hickam Jr., of the autobiographical novel and movie October Sky.

Eighth-grader, Treyton Kealalio-Puli, said he loved all of the activities they got to do, but that one of his favorites was when he went on a simulated mission where he was the commander of the space shuttle.

“Our parents teach us, like, not to touch certain things in the house, but [at Space Camp] they encouraged us to touch everything,” Treyton said, describing all of the switches he familiarized himself with. “When we were practicing, we’d read our manual. There were many things we had to look at to prepare for an anomaly that might happen. We would have to ask mission control what to do and then we’d have to figure it out.” 


“Since I was little I wanted to be an astronaut,” she said. “When I told my parents I was going to Space Camp, my mom almost cried because she was like, ‘this has been your dream since you were little.’ It was fun because I got to experience it in real life. It was a really good surprise.”Fourteen-year-old Marely Esquivel said getting to sit in the 1/6thgravity chair, which simulated taking a walk on the moon and learning what it might feel like to tumble in space on the Multi-Axis Trainer were some of her favorite highlights, particularly as a lover of space.

It also served as a birthday present since her birthday was the day before they left.

After a week filled with activities, the students participated in a graduation ceremony where their name badges were flipped right-side up to represent their completed training; they also received their wings. Both Treyton and Marely had their name badges flipped by Retired NASA Astronaut Donald Thomas.

“As a teacher, having my students exposed to space and the excitement I think was present at the camp, I can just tell now they are both more excited about science and are interested in future opportunities for science careers,” teacher Julia Shotwell added.

“I think it’s pretty cool that Northrop Grumman was able to sponsor us and we got to learn a little bit about them before we left,” Treyton said. “I really like the things they do there because they help protect our country, so I really want to be an engineer and work for them. Maybe if the people that sponsored us are still there I could see them again and be able to work for them.”

Treyton Kealalio-Puli, Teacher Julia Shotwell, and Marely Esquivel in their space suits that they got to take home with them