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Problem solving defines trip to Oahu space center


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POSTED: Friday, April 17, 2009

On Nov. 20, seventh-graders and advisers Amy Miner, Marie Sack, Kinga Sanders and Beverly Tachibana went to Leeward Oahu to participate in a mock space mission at Challenger Center Hawaii.

Students at the center work in cooperative teams to solve real-life mathematics, science and technology problems during a spaceflight simulation. The center hosts a realistic mission control modeled after NASA's Johnson Space Center and a futuristic space station providing students with spaceflight experience.

The center offers two mission scenarios, each of which runs for approximately two hours.

“;Return to the Moon”; presented student Kierdre Howard's class with this scenario: In 2040, man returns to the moon for the first time since the last Apollo mission in 1972. The goal of the mission is to establish a permanent lunar base that will allow the astronauts to:

» Collect and analyze data about the space environment and the moon.

» Study the feasibility of developing a self-sustaining, off-planet settlement.

» Create a steppingstone for manned planetary exploration.

“;My team was so close to reaching the moon, but we missed by like this much,”; Howard said, holding up her index finger and thumb barely spread apart.

Chelsea Cypress had a different experience: “;My team made it to the moon, but we didn't get our probe up.”;

According to Cypress, her class of 46 was divided into two groups: One was in charge of mission control, the other in charge of the space station.

“;We would switch later on, though,”; Cypress said.

Howard elaborated on the two groups. “;Mission control is responsible for all the things going on back on Earth, like telling the people in the space station where to land and how to get there. The space station is obviously in space, and they do the cool stuff.”;

Alana Freitas said, “;Mission control does cool stuff, too, though. They have to solve the problems. They're the thinkers.”; It appeared that both groups had an equal amount of responsibility and an equal amount of fun.

Seventh-grade science teacher Sanders said she enjoyed “;observing the students try to work through problems on their own and with each other.”;

Problem solving was key in this learning experience. Rocketing toward the moon and launching a probe is not the only seventh-grade mission accomplished.