Elisabeth Moore, better known as Betty Jo, spent her summer break from Wiley Middle School in Winston-Salem learning how to be an astronaut.
Moore was taught how to make a heat shield for a space shuttle, a landing craft for a lunar rover, and how to work in zero gravity - all at no cost to her at all.
Moore, a resident of Yadkinville and sixth grade science teacher, applied and was accepted to the Honeywell Educators @ Space Academy program.
The program hosted 200 math and science educators from 41 states and 27 countries over the course of two weeks, Moore said.
She flew down June 14 and flew back June 20.
The academy was held at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Ala.
Each day began with a bus drive from the University of Alabama at Huntsville dorms where the teachers stayed. Moore had to be ready for breakfast by 7 a.m. each day.
The teachers were divided into teams and traveled around together throughout the day. Some teams might have a classroom lesson first, some studied rocketry, or they might do the obstacle course.
They wore flight suits and participated in real simulators and zero-gravity machines, even being submerged underwater and trained how to exit a spacecraft.
Moore was taught how NASA designs rockets and how things worked in the Apollo and shuttle missions.
She was also taught how to extract DNA from fruit by a biotech company, part of the program’s science base.
She also learned what jumping off a platform with a parachute felt like.
Classes started at 8 a.m. and usually lasted until 8-9 p.m. Moore said the groups were so eager to talk and learn more they would then stay awake till 2 0r 3 a.m.
One project in particular was the development of a lunar base, like in space.
Each member of a group was tasked with creating a different part of the base. The group then had to sell the idea in a presentation, just like they would in the real world to a venture capitalist for funding.
Teachers also developed a lunar rover and a lander.
Everything had to be within budget and no more than a certain number of pieces. The lander was then dropped from several stories and, provided the rover survived, the lander opened and the rover exited.
They also developed heat shields like those used on a shuttle. Teachers used a blow torch to simulate reentry to the earth’s atmosphere.
Eggs were used as “astronauts” to test the lander and shield. If the egg cracked on impact or was fried inside when cracked open the design failed.
The program brought together people from different backgrounds and helped to broaden the teachers’ horizons before they go back to school, taking their experiences to the classroom. Moore’s group had 14 people in it including a educator from the Czech Republic and another from Australia.
“We were all very respectful,” Moore said. “We did have people who were from Arabic nations, so of course they have different food restrictions that they follow, and of course their prayer rituals and things like that. Everybody was very, very respectful of it because we are all there on behalf of how we can better the education of kids.”
Moore and her new friends are staying in contact and plan to do collaborative projects between classes via Skype.
They email, Skype and call each other almost non-stop, Moore said.
Nothing, not even her flight down and back, cost Moore a dime during the program. NASA provided materials for the teachers to use in class and provided them with their very own rockets.
An engineering firm provided each teacher with CAD (computer-aided design) software, valued at thousands of dollars, for free, Moore said.
“We came back with so much stuff I thought I was was going to be over the weight-limit on my bags,” Moore said.
She only paid for her souvenirs while on her trip.
She was also given her own personal flight suit, free of charge.
Each camp designs its own mission logo like the real astronauts do. The teachers got together and paid to have a print shop create a patch with the logo so each person could stitch it onto the flight suit for maximum authenticity.
Moore plans to use the lessons she learned in Huntsville as part of her school’s STEAM initiative. STEAM - Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts, and Mathematics - teaches students to be better prepared for the workplace by using group work and special projects.
She plans to use projects like the lunar lander for her class, provided the administration will allow her to drop the lander from a few floors up or down a stairwell.
Elkin City Schools visited Wiley Middle School when researching their own new STEAM program, including Moore’s classroom.
She also plans to wear the flight suit for the students.
Moore likes to spend her summers expanding her knowledge base to better teach. She files for grants each summer and has previously attended camps like professional golfer Phil Mickelson’s science academy.
Moore hopes to return to space camp next year for additional training. She will be applying to an advanced space camp in Houston.
“Some teachers say ‘Oh, I’m not wasting my summer like that.’ Uh uh, it’s not a waste. It is just time well spent, especially now with the connections that I have around the world that I can use as a teacher,” Moore said.
She even volunteered to be a spokeswoman for Honeywell to further thank them for the experience.
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