Orbital ed

Lockheed Martin engineer
shares knowledge with kids at
space camp

SUPERIOR – Mankind once
believed the world was flat, Ron
Caswell pointed out while seated in
a Superior Elementary School
classroom Monday.

By JANE RIDER of the

The Lockheed Martin engineer at
John F. Kennedy Space Center
pinched together his thumb and
index finger until they were about
an inch apart.

"The knowledge we’ve gained since
then is this much more," said Caswell, who tests and assembles parts of the International Space
Station. "There is so much more to know … so much more to do."

So why was he in a classroom in a small western Montana town Monday?

"I came to spend the day with you all," an enthusiastic Caswell told about 20 kids from St. Regis,
Alberton, Clinton and Superior.

The pupils – in grades 4 through 7 – are enrolled in a weeklong aerospace camp based in

Capt. Kaye Ebelt, director of aerospace education in Montana with the U.S. Air Force’s Civil
Air Patrol, is the instructor. She’s also a teacher at Target Range School in Missoula.

Campers on Monday learned about the U.S. space program, space shuttle technology, launch
sequences and the International Space Station – the largest and most complex international
scientific project in history that combines the science and technology of 16 nations.

They’ll train for a mock space mission and spend Tuesday in a swimming pool where they’ll learn
scuba diving. (Astronauts need microgravity simulations to prepare for space-walking activities
once in orbit around Earth.)

Later in the week, they’ll discover space research and troubleshoot like real astronauts. They’ll
learn astronomy, solar physics and space piloting. They’ll build rockets.

And, in the process, they’ll discover the value of teamwork and communication in

In the school gym, inside a small model spacecraft called the Orbiter, students will run through a
pre-launch checklist to ensure the craft is ready for flight, Ebelt said.

"I’ll give you a script that you will follow," she said. "There will be times I’ll cause you a problem.
That won’t be in the script."

The students will then joins their teammates in solving simulated problems and communicating
with "scientists" at "Mission Control."

"This is so much like the real thing," Caswell interjected. It was a line he repeated several times
during the morning.

Caswell summarized the history of space travel for his audience, from the Soviet Union’s launch
of Sputnik, the world’s first satellite, in 1957, to the Apollo 11 lunar landing in 1969, to the space
shuttle, the world’s first reusable space vehicle, in 1981.

He also discussed the importance of the International Space Station to humanity. Among the
types of U.S. research that scientists will perform aboard the station are protein crystal studies
that could lead to possible treatments for cancer, diabetes and immune system disorders; growth
of tissue cultures in low gravity environments; and tests of flames, fluids and metals that could lead
to creating better products for industries.

Caswell said he got involved in space camps about six years ago.

"The youth is our future," he said. "These kids deserve to know why we are doing this stuff."

He hopes to inspire youngsters to learn and to follow their hearts.

"Do something with your life that you are going to be proud of," Caswell said.

The camp is one of several after-school and summer programs offered to area students for free,
funded with federal grants from the 21st Century Community Learning Center.

Rose Woodford, a Superior resident and area 21st Century project director, has successfully
applied for more than a dozen grants to support children’s programs. A $500,000 grant over
three years for the St. Regis and Superior communities and a three-year $710,000 grant for
Alberton and Clinton helped fund activities like aerospace camp.

The money covers the costs of staff, training, equipment and materials to run educational
after-school and summer programs.

"I just enjoy it. It’s fun," said Ryanne Burklund, 12, of St. Regis, during a short break from
launching miniature space shuttles on the school playground.

Burklund, who will be a seventh-grader this fall, said she wants to be a pilot when she grows up
and also has participated in The Young Astronauts program, another after-school activity geared
toward aviation.

Tyrone Ruiz, 11, said he enjoyed building a miniature space shuttle and was impressed by a fact
Caswell shared about American astronaut Jerry Ross: He was the first man to travel in space
seven times.

Ruiz, who’ll be a sixth-grader in fall, likes science, but also enjoys music and hasn’t decided on a
career yet.

"I might want to play in a band," he said.

Reporter Jane Rider can be reached at 523-5298 or at jrider@missoulian.

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