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Mars: Or, There and Back Again

Camryn Burley
Ocean Lakes High School

AUTHORS NOTE:
The mentor associated with this project is Mrs. Dianna McDowell, earth science teacher at
Kemps Landing Magnet School and Director of Camp Invention. The author would like to
acknowledge the generous contributions of Mrs. McDowell, Mrs. Graves, the VASTS program,
the Counselors-in-Training, and her family.

MARS: OR, THERE AND BACK AGAIN

Introduction
Two growing fields became the center of my senior capstone project: a crewed mission to
Mars and Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education. Both have
importance to me on a personal level, making them suitable topics for me to create my project
around, but they also hold global, national, and local importance. This quality allows my project
to have a special relevance in todays world, by combining two areas of focus that can be closely
related to generate a project about which I am passionate.
In todays world, a mission to Mars is extremely possible (R. Crouch, personal
communication, July 8, 2015), as appropriate technological advancements have been made or are
in process. The scientific community would greatly benefit from discoveries made about the
planet: knowledge about its formation could give insight into Earths creation, information about
its geological and biological history could change our perspective on the necessities for life and
how it can come about, and understanding of how Mars changed over time to reach its present
state could apply to climate change on Earth1. A Martian mission will also have benefits to
humanity as a whole, including spinoffs, or technologies originally created for space exploration
that have daily applications for individuals2 and the creation of jobs3 especially relevant to the
local Hampton Roads area, as NASA Langley Research Center is located in Hampton, Virginia.
Current events also prove the relevancy and ability for a mission to Mars to be conducted
within the next few decades. The Curiosity Rover landed on Mars in 2012 and was the center of
much anticipation and coverage in the media. It featured a new architecture for Entry, Descent,
and Landing (EDL) processes in order to enter Mars atmosphere and land safely, and it collected
over seventy samples of soil from Gale crater to satisfy the mission goal of assessing the landing
area for habitability and preservation of life4. This past summer, the New Horizons mission flew

MARS: OR, THERE AND BACK AGAIN

by Pluto, capturing the most detailed global maps of the planet to date, along with readings about
surface composition and temperature5. Most recently, NASA has gathered evidence from the
Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) that liquid water currently flows on the surface of Mars6.
These missions provide the inspiration necessary to take on the next great feat of sending
humans to Mars, while also presenting the experience and technologies to make a Martian
mission a reality.
Launching a mission to Mars, especially one with a crew, is an extreme feat that will
require years of work, large sums of money, and a great amount of risk in order to accomplish.
Despite these detractors, it is imperative to conduct such a mission. The large amounts of money,
expertise, and work required can be provided by numerous countries in collaboration7. The unity
resulting from these partnerships may be unprecedented in the history of global relations and
yield a new time of peace worldwide. Though each mission possesses an inherent risk, adding
humans to the mission greatly increases this risk and adds ethical concerns. The importance of a
crew to the goals and efforts to foster global concord, however, prove their necessity. Loss of
crew constitutes the most dangerous aspect of the mission, and every precaution will be taken to
prevent this occurrence8. At this point in time, technology has advanced to provide better
protection and risk mitigation systems than the first series of crewed missions in space, through
experience and development of equipment. Robots could be proposed as an alternative to the
human factor, and though they have been developed to perform many functions for scientific
research, including sample selection and analysis, with the most famous example being NASAs
Curiosity Rover4, these machines have little intelligence when compared to humans. Sending
people to Mars allows for decision-making capabilities regarding disasters, unforeseen
complications with sample collection, crew accidents and relationships, and virtually every other

MARS: OR, THERE AND BACK AGAIN

situation that may arise while simultaneously providing more opportunities for on-site analysis of
the samples with the human ability to run more complex and a larger number of equipment
types9.
STEM education and Martian missions can be linked, with the mission providing
educational outreach opportunities for students and inspiration for a future generation of
scientists and engineers. As Langley is located a relatively short distance to Virginia Beach and
other surrounding communities, students could easily take part in school field trips, come into
contact with NASA officials working on the mission, and know a good deal about the missions
progress. Such a mission has never before been attempted and is sure to spark interest and
intrigue in youth world-wide, nation-wide, and locally in Hampton Roads.
Globally, STEM education is becoming more emphasized and STEM jobs are growing in
number. The projection of growth in the field from 2008 to 2018 is 17.0%, large when compared
to the 9.8% projected for non-STEM occupations10. Children interested and educated in STEM
areas will find greater demand for jobs the world over, not to mention that they will be paid an
increased salary than their counterparts in non-STEM fields10. Even on a local scale, STEM
education has become highly accentuated. Ocean Lakes High School has debuted an Integrative
STEM class for Math and Science Academy juniors, the academy Landstown High School has
been renamed the Governors STEM Academy, and a greater emphasis is being placed on these
topics at every level in the public school system.
In addition to the widespread importance of the topics on which I have conducted my
senior project, they are incredibly important to me personally. Mars missions became significant
to me over the course of the online Virginia Aerospace Science and Technology Scholars
(VASTS) course and then even more so over the week of the Summer Academy. I cherish the

MARS: OR, THERE AND BACK AGAIN

time that I spent at NASAs Langley Research Center, and each time I think about a Martian
mission, I am taken back to that week and the memories of all that I accomplished and the
amazing individuals I met there. Missions to Mars hold a special place in my heart, and
researching, designing, and then teaching about them have been an incredibly rewarding and
valuable experience for me.
STEM education also holds personal significance to me. My whole life has led me to
favor STEM education, as I was drawn to science from an early age. As I grew older, I realized
that I not only loved science, but that I wanted to pursue a career in the field.

What I Knew/ What I Wanted to Know


Before completing my senior project, I knew relatively little about NASA, space science,
and mission design. I knew that I was interested in science and that space had always intrigued
me, but that was nearly the extent of my knowledge. After the Virginia Space Coast Scholars
(VSCS) program, which gave me a better understanding of the direction of my senior project, I
wanted to know more about mission design and the potential careers that exist at NASA. I also
wanted to know how such knowledge could be incorporated into lessons for a middle school
audience, what impact these could have, and how best to inspire students to pursue STEM career
fields.

The Story of My Search


Before High School
In middle school, I watched a documentary series called NOVA, hosted by the theoretical
physicist Brian Greene. I was fascinated by all of the topics he discussed and at that point

MARS: OR, THERE AND BACK AGAIN

decided I wanted to have a career in theoretical physics. This discovery led me to start
researching potential careers in addition to any knowledge I could find about string theory, black
holes, and other related topics. These inquiries truly began the journey of my senior project, as
they marked the beginning of my interest in space science.
Virginia Space Coast Scholars
As a part of the Independent Research class during my sophomore year, I had to find
summer opportunities and science contests that could potentially serve as the experience or
product for my senior project. Mrs. Graves pointed out VSCS to me, and I became interested in
the program, which consisted of a series of online modules to qualify for a Summer Academy
held at the NASA facility on Wallops Island. I was astonished and excited when the acceptance
letter came to me.
The online modules presented lessons about Earth System Science, engineering, and
aeronautics. There were activities, journals, quick writes, and math problems to complete, all
associated with the topics of the current module. I found myself most interested in the NASA
missions presented in the modules, and less so in the Earth science portions. Through the
completion of this online course, I learned that a career in Earth science is not my first choice,
which was a valuable lesson and helped me to narrow down the potential areas of study for my
senior project later. I also learned a great deal about time management, as the modules were
intensive, and most of my time was taken up by them and my schoolwork combined.
After the completion of the online modules and the final project, for which I chose to
write a newspaper article about the SuperTIGER mission, which studied galactic cosmic rays in
Antarctica, I waited for the decision about the Summer Academy. I soon found out that I had
been accepted! I was looking forward to meeting other students with similar interests, but

MARS: OR, THERE AND BACK AGAIN

admittedly, I was also nervous that I would not fit in at the Summer Academy, or that it would be
too challenging. My trepidations were unnecessary, though, as I had the time of my life at the
VSCS Summer Academy.
Before the Summer Academy, we were assigned to small groups to research a mission
currently underway at NASA. I was given MAVEN, an orbiter sent to Mars to study the current
composition of its atmosphere and its rate of change over time. At the Academy, two small
groups were combined to make a single Mega Mission group. We were tasked with finding a
way to combine the goals and objectives of the two missions to create a design for a new
mission. Each team had two science officers, of which I was one, responsible for writing the
goals of the new mission and determining the science experiments to be completed. There were
also two engineering specialists, responsible for choosing the platform, which carries the
instruments; two technology specialists, responsible for the payload, or the instrumentation
necessary to carry out the science goals; and two strategic communications officers, responsible
for public relations and gaining support for the mission.
My group combined the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) mission the
Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) mission to create the Venus Atmospheric Properties
ORbital (VAPOR). It was to study the atmosphere of Venus, in order to compare it with data
already known about Earth and Mars, especially about greenhouse gases, to gain a better
understanding of climate change on our own planet. Another objective was to study the cold
layer of Venus' atmosphere, a fairly recent discovery by the European Space Agency's (ESA)
Venus Express (VEX) mission11. The goal of this work was to prepare for a panel presentation at
the end of the week given to VSCS staff, our fellow scholars, and NASA officials.

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During our week at VSCS, we also were able to tour Wallops Flight Facility (WFF) and
the Mid-Atlantic Regional Space Port (MARS). At WFF, we talked with amazing NASA officials
working on the missions we were studying. We talked to Dr. Shad Combs from the Low-Density
Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) project and Dr. Piotr Domaszczynski from GPM. Dr.
Domaszczynski even took us out into the field to see the gauges that collect measurements of
precipitation on-site at WFF! He answered many of our questions and was an incredibly helpful
resource for information we could not have found online. At MARS, we toured the Launchpad
that had launched the LADEE mission and saw the Antares rocket being built, which was my
favorite part of the week.
I absolutely loved the VSCS Summer Academy. I made many friends along the way, and
I was able to interact with scientists and engineers from NASA, which was a great experience.
This involvement with mission design really sparked my interest and solidified my decision to
work in a science field, particularly space science. I learned about my own interests, what it takes
to design a portion of a NASA mission, and more about what NASA officials do.
Virginia Aerospace Science and Technology Scholars- Online Modules
After such a great experience with VSCS, I decided that I definitely wanted to apply for
Virginia Aerospace Science and Technology Scholars (VASTS), a program related to VSCS. An
added perk was that VSCS participants were granted automatic admission to VASTS.
The online modules for VASTS focused more on space science, preparing students for the
Summer Academy which was centered on designing a crewed mission to Mars. Each of the eight
modules required a technical report in correct APA format, about a topic discussed in the module
lesson. The report for Module 1 was centered on mission design; I had to create a mission about
a topic of my choosing, including research on the mission subject, mission type, mission

MARS: OR, THERE AND BACK AGAIN

duration, and examples of mission users, who use and benefit from the mission. I chose to focus
my report on the tachocline region of the sun and its relationship to the creation of the solar
magnetic field. I found this report one of the most difficult to write, because I could not find a
topic to conduct the mission on that was not already in process by one of the worlds space
agencies.
I learned the most from the Module 6 report. It was the lengthiest, though I did not mind
the effort, as VSCS and VASTS had taught me that I love to research. The focus was on a Lunar
Base Design, requiring a plan for everything to do with a lunar colony, such as crew health and
accommodations, location, how to govern the colony, and the Concept of Operations (ConOps),
which includes buildings and roads among other things. I enjoyed finding articles about
innovations being created for the purpose of an extraterrestrial base and considering all of the
details.
Other topics for technical reports included space ethics, crew transit vehicle (CTV)
design, long-duration experiments to be performed aboard the ISS, robotic mission design, and
risk management.
For the final product, I was to act as a NASA employee submitting a proposal for a Mars
Surface Base design to NASA Headquarters for approval. This report was extremely involved
and necessitated that I create a complete ConOps, determine the landing site, and write the
science goals, all while considering how the mission would correlate to current NASA objectives
and engage the public to receive support and funding.
I learned a great deal during my time with the online VASTS modules. I came to know so
much more about space science, mission design, and the creation of bases, habitats, and other
structures. I also learned how complex missions truly are, as VSCS had greatly simplified them

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in order to give only an introduction. I again learned time management, especially after the first
module, where I left the entire technical report for the day of the Saturday deadline. I learned my
lesson quickly and spread the work out for the rest of the modules.
Virginia Aerospace Science and Technology Scholars- Summer Academy
The VASTS Summer Academy was organized differently than the VSCS one. Instead of
each team working to create its own mission, as we had done at VSCS, each of the five teams at
VASTS had separate responsibilities that all contributed to the same mission: sending a crew to
Mars and returning them safely with samples. I was assigned to the Science and Surface
Operations (SSO) team, which decided the missions goals, experiments, site selection,
laboratory design, and vehicles to be used on the surface. Since I loved being a science officer at
VSCS, I wanted to be on this team was relieved when I got my first choice.
Before the VASTS Summer Academy got underway, I had to complete the pre-academy
assignment. Members of each team were assigned a partner and a mission element. As no one
person can be well-versed enough in every part of the team's operations in order to make
the mission successful, we each focused on our mission element and used our individual
knowledge to contribute to the team. My mission element was Mars Exploration Program
Analysis Group (MEPAG) goals analysis. I was responsible for knowing about the organization
and its four goals for scientific exploration of Mars. This came in handy during the week of
VASTS, as one of SSOs responsibilities was to write mission goals and then ensure that they
aligned with the MEPAG goals. I was glad to be able to contribute to my group when they
needed this information.
On the first day, Saturday, we arrived to Christopher Newport University in the afternoon.
We met our roommates and tried to find members of our groups in the chaos and excitement of

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the first day. The directors of the Summer Academy, Mr. Cawthray and Ms. Kashiri, introduced
us to the Academy and our task for the week, planning a crewed mission to Mars. We then
worked on our mission element presentations with our partners after dinner.
The next morning, we presented out mission element presentations to the SSO team,
while discussing what impact these elements would have on our portion of the mission design.
We attended a risk and radiation seminar, conducted by Mr. Cawthray, which was really
interesting and helpful, because it gave us values for radiation doses and more information on the
topic. That night, my group also worked on defining the science goals for the mission, based on
the MEPAG goals, and picked a landing site. I thought our process for choosing a site
noteworthy, because we separated into pairs to research a specific site, shared what we found to
the group, and then gave each site a score in the various criteria we defined as essential for a
prospective site. We ended up choosing Melas Chasma, located in the Valles Marineris, as it had
the best score. We felt great about our progress, because we had finished the science goals and
picked a landing site all in the first full day of work. We also worked well together as a group,
which I think helped us immensely. As we completed these tasks, our Master Teacher and Interns
interviewed us for the positions we would hold on our team. I interviewed for Systems Manager
and Deputy Systems Manager. Through this, I learned about the interview process, which will be
beneficial when I go to apply for a job.
Monday was our first day at NASA Langley Research Center (LaRC). The beautiful
integrated engineering services building was to be our workplace for the next week. After
breakfast, the center director welcomed us to the facility and we attended a keynote address from
a congressman. We then learned our positions on the team, where I was announced Deputy
Systems Manager! In this position, I was responsible for all communications between my team,

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SSO, and the other four teams: Mission Integration, Mission Transit, Strategic Communications,
and Human Factors. I delivered my first set of sticky note emails, used to simulate the actual
communications conditions of NASA employees, and then we were moved to the next room to
be grilled by Mr. Jeff Jones. His intense questioning was actually really helpful, as it let us know
how much we needed to research and what would be expected of us in the next week. Mr. Jones
has worked on 21 shuttle launches and the ISS, so he was an invaluable resource to us
throughout our time at VASTS. After a lunch and learn, held by Mr. Donner Grigsby, we met one
of our mentors, a planetary scientist, who answered many of our questions about the Martian
surface and interior, and confirmed the feasibility of our plans. He seemed very excited about our
work and especially the landing site, which mirrored our feelings. We worked some more and
then went to a debrief, where the Systems Managers from each of the teams explained what their
group had done that day and the work they were currently completing. After dinner at the
Virginia Air and Space Center, we did more mission design work.
Immediately after breakfast on Tuesday, we went on a tour of the Lunar Surface
Manipulator System (LSMS) and Lunar Habitat facility, where we got to see the crane NASA
proposes to use to move cargo around as a part of a lunar base and some inflatable habitats. My
team was excited about this, because we had just been talking about them using them in our
mission design. Our group worked until the etiquette lunch, where we learned about proper use
of utensils, handshaking, polite practices for interviews, and more. The skills I picked up are
extremely helpful, and I will definitely use them later in life. The rest of the day was comprised
of mission design work. We also had a panel debrief, to practice for Thursdays presentation,
where the interns and master teachers could ask us questions about our plans so far, in order to
gauge our progress and for us to understand the kinds of questions we may get and what we had

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yet to research.
After Wednesdays breakfast, we went on a tour of the materials and fabrication (fab lab)
departments of Langley. We saw college students working on a drone, the various methods for
cutting shapes out of materials, the 3D-printing facility, and ISAAC- an impressive robot to
make and apply the carbon fibers as radiation shielding. More mission design work that morning
was followed by lunch and a speech by Roger Crouch, a former NASA astronaut. I loved
listening to his talk, because he was humorous and inspirational. It was intriguing to hear about
going through the launches and how he felt while in space. Mission design work took up the rest
of the afternoon and evening as we finished the last minute preparations for the next days
presentation.
On Thursday, presentation day, my team was extremely relieved that our work was very
front-loaded, giving us the ability to devote the day to practicing our presentations and working
on our PowerPoint slides to turn in to Strat Comm. We practiced in the actual room we would
have the panel, as well as in our workspace. I was responsible for presenting the MEPAG goals
and our missions science goals. After the presentations, where each person had one minute and
thirty seconds to share their information, a panel of experts, such as Mr. Jones and
representatives from AMA and Sierra Lobo, asked us questions about our mission design. Our
team did a great job of answering these questions, and each of us felt that the questions our
interns and teacher had been asking earlier in the day were more difficult. After we got back to
the CNU dorms, we attended the intern presentation, in which the eleven interns sat down and
allowed us to ask questions for an hour about college or other topics. This was interesting and
useful information about college life. We then worked on our poster to be put together the next
day as an aid in presenting our work to our parents, which did not take long, as we had good

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slides and information already put together. It made us incredibly happy to go to bed early!
On our last day of the Summer Academy, we put our posters together, then headed to the
Landing and Impact Research Facility, where they crash aircraft in order to study their behavior
and develop safety mechanisms. I ate lunch with my mother, grandfather, and sister, and then
showed them our poster and told them about the work my team had been doing during the week.
We attended the closing ceremony, which featured much shorter versions of our panel
presentations, and speeches from students about their experience at VASTS. After that, it was
time to leave, which no one wanted to do! We had become so close over the course of the week
that it was hard to say goodbye.
The VASTS Summer Academy was even more incredible than I had imagined it would
be. I also got less sleep than I thought I would, but that was completely made up for by all of the
experiences I had. I learned so much this week about myself, communication, working with
others, NASA, Mars, missions, and much, much more. It really confirmed my interest in the
aerospace industry and STEM in general. I loved the challenge of designing a crewed mission to
Mars and the atmosphere created by the students, my team specifically, the interns, and the
teachers, who all wanted to be there and have the same interests and passion as myself. It was a
truly inspiring, uplifting, challenging, amazing, and formative journey from start to finish. I hope
I will have more experiences like this one and the ability to work with a similarly incredible team
of individuals in the future.

Product
Product Planning
After thinking about the VASTS online modules and what related products I could create,

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I came upon the idea of creating lessons for middle school students, called Counselors-inTraining (CITs), at Camp Invention, a STEM camp for which I have been a counselor for four
years now. After meeting with Mrs. Graves in late March, I had definitely decided on doing a
lesson or multiple lessons at Camp Invention for the end product of my capstone project. I then
emailed Mrs. McDowell, a former teacher of mine and the head of the Camp Invention program I
work with, and she was very enthusiastic about my idea. She suggested having the lessons run
throughout the week and possibly incorporating a project that the campers could show off on the
final day, which acts as a showcase at camp. I was not able to incorporate this into my product,
but I made it a part of the Camp Invention experience.
For each lesson, I created PowerPoint presentation slides, a lesson plan similar to those
that teachers use, goals and underlying questions, a list of materials needed, an outline of talking
points to be sure I would get all of the information across, worksheets, and pre and post tests to
measure the effectiveness of my lessons both quantitatively and qualitatively. I asked questions
about the information I covered as well as what the campers liked and would have changed about
the lesson. Another important part of the lesson planning process was to test all of the activities
as I went along. For the third lesson, I planned to make soda straw rockets, so I built one at home
first to ensure that it would be a viable activity. Most of the planning and creating was completed
before VASTS, though I left a few items for after that week, to make sure I would be able to add
any new information I learned.
After I had nearly completed all of the lessons and before I left for VASTS, I met with
Mrs. McDowell to discuss my progress, the lesson plans, and how they would fit into the CIT
schedule at camp. She gave excellent feedback and plenty of ideas to tie in with the lessons, such
as video clips. She was very accommodating and had many of the materials I will need already

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on hand. After this meeting, I drew up a tentative schedule of the week, to make sure that my
lessons would fit in and that the CITs could have adequate time to work with their groups. It was
important to hold this meeting in order to make sure I was complying with any constraints from
Camp Invention, but Mrs. McDowell really gave me free reign, which made it easier for me to
plan my lessons.
Lesson 1- Science and Engineering
The first lesson focused on science and engineering. I taught the campers about the
Engineering Design Process by talking about each of the steps and then had them apply their new
knowledge by going through this process with the Protect a Pringle activity. They worked in
teams of two to find three items from the recycle room, a large area at Camp Invention filled
with recyclables for building, that would protect a Pringle from a drop off of the stage. We
identified the problem, criteria, and constraints as a group, and then I let them go through the
Engineering Design Process on their own while they made a prototype of their Pringle
protection. After testing, we discussed any redesigns the groups would have liked to do.
Lesson 2- Missions
The second lesson was centered around missions, more specifically goal setting, mission
design, the role of science within them, and platforms and payload. I taught the group of CITs
about some example missions, what platforms and payloads are, and showed them examples of
mission patches. I included real patches from NASA missions and the ones made at VSCS and
VASTS for the missions I had worked on at those camps. They then designed their own mission
patch for a mission they would like to see one day, including what platform and payload they
would use. Next was a rover game that I found as a part of a Mars-themed activity packet by
NASA. As an opening, I showed the 7 Minutes of Terror video about the landing of the

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Curiosity Rover and then a video of the NASA team celebrating upon a successful landing. For
the rover game, I placed construction paper on the ground as obstacles. CITs were split into two
teams of six members, with four of them acting as a rover and two acting as programmers. The
programmers had to go through the course and write down directions for their rover, keeping in
mind that they could not alter them later, mimicking the communications delay between Earth
and Mars. Then, the CITs making up the rover stood with their hands on each others shoulders,
conga line style, with their eyes closed, and went through the course, listening to the directions
of their programmers. If they hit any obstacles, they had to stand still for ten seconds. Then the
process was repeated with the second team of programmers and rovers, and the team with the
best time won. We talked about what went well and what they should change, then switched
programmers and had the teams run the course again.
Lesson 3- Launch
The third lesson taught about launches. The first activity was a launch puzzle that I
adapted from a VASTS assignment. In order to learn about tradeoffs, CITs worked in groups to
decide what rockets they would use and where they would launch them, keeping in mind the
budget and amount of mass they needed to launch. After, we built soda straw rockets, another
activity in the same booklet from NASA as the rover game. Teams of two were asked to build a
rocket based off of the directions on the template. I had originally planned for each team to have
a different nose cone length, so we could see what length corresponded to the greatest flight
distance, but the CITs struggled with making the nose cone so this did not happen. Despite this,
the soda straw rocket launching was a favorite with everyone in the group. I was glad to see them
so interested in the lesson and having fun at the same time.

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Lesson 4- Human Factors


Human factors was the subject of the fourth lesson. CITs could choose whether to work
in groups or along to design a space habitat. I taught them about the necessary life support
systems contained in space habitats as well. As they designed their habitats, I was really
impressed by their designs, as they incorporated elements we had not talked about, such as
airlocks and greenhouses, that are integral to space habitat design. Some groups even talked
about maintaining pressure and temperature before I discussed ECLSS! Their ideas were creative
and, for the most part, realistic solutions that we considered at VASTS. The next portion of the
lesson focused on radiation. I showed a video about radiation as an introduction. Then, we
discussed why it is important to protect astronauts from radiation and calculated our own
radiation dosages that we get on Earth each year. I was excited to teach about human factors and
radiation, because it is something relatively new to middle school students.

Results
Lesson 1- Science and Engineering
The first lesson went extremely smoothly, and the CITs seemed to love the lesson. Since I
did it in the afternoon, they seemed to be a little distracted during the first part of the lesson,
where I talked to them about the Engineering Design Process, but once we did the Protect
a Pringle activity, they were extremely engaged and excited about learning. Almost all of the
comments that I got from them on their post tests were positive, and their suggestions for
improvement could really be used as an extension of the lesson, such as using eggs instead of
Pringles, rather than something that actually went wrong. The next day, Mrs. McDowell told me
that one of the CITs made his mother go to the store to buy Pringles after camp so that he could

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build more Pringle armor and test his devices. I thought it was really cool that he enjoyed the
lesson so much that he wanted to continue it at home! In the comparison of the pre and post test
results, a majority of the CITs improved their scores, which was meaningful to me in that I had
confirmation that my lessons had had an impact.
Lesson 2- Missions
I got a lot of positive feedback on this lesson both in person and from their post tests.
Every CIT but one got a perfect score on the post test, which made me feel really good, because I
was able to teach them something, and they were engaged enough to listen and understand the
information. Also, no one got more than one question correct on the pre test, so the lesson taught
them new things. Their mission patches turned out great; they were so good in fact that we hung
them on the wall in the cafeteria at Camp Invention! I loved hearing all of their ideas for
missions, and while some of them were outlandish and fun, others were really serious and
potentially possible, which led to great discussions about the current work NASA is doing and
the organization's goals for the future, especially in regards to Mars. I think it would have
worked better if I had planned another activity for them to do while the programmers were going
through the rover course, just to keep them all together and settled, but it was not too hard to
wrangle them back in and get them to watch the next rover go through the course. Again, I taught
the lesson in the afternoon, so that created a few issues, but overall it was not too great of a
detractor from the lesson.
Lesson 3- Launch
I got many positive comments about the lesson. I was surprised by how well they shared
the rocket launching, because there seemed to be no arguments about passing around the rocket

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in the group. Their quiz results were excellent as all but two CITs got perfect scores on the post
test, and I felt that they understood the concepts I taught.
Lesson 4- Human Factors
The CITs asked really good questions about the topics and seemed to be interested in
knowing more than just the information I had presented. The radiation portion of the lesson went
well, especially to teach them something new; they knew radiation as a way that heat moves and
not in the context of space. They seemed to enjoy calculating their annual radiation doses. The
quiz results were again good scores.
Lesson 5- Wrap Up
The fifth and final day of Camp Invention is always hectic, so I conducted a wrap-up
question and answer session with the CITs. This enabled them to reflect on their experience as a
CIT, such as what leadership qualities they had gained, and my lessons. They gave great
feedback about my lessons and about the CIT program in general. I liked hearing what they
thought were highlights of the week and what they would like to see changed for next year.

Conclusion
I am so incredibly happy that I was able to incorporate two of my passions, aerospace
science and engineering and STEM education into my senior project. It was definitely a
worthwhile experience for me and allowed me to explore the career field in which I am
interested. Completing NASA's VSCS and VASTS programs have opened my eyes to new career
paths and have let me know that I definitely want to pursue a career in aerospace engineering. I
love the NASA environment, the atmosphere that people with interests similar to mine create,
and all of the professionals I've been able to speak with seem passionate about their work, which

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is something I am seeking in a future career. VSCS and VASTS have had big impacts on my
plans; not only have I had exposure to various fields, but I have been able to confirm that this is
something I want to continue with for the rest of my life.
Creating lessons and being a counselor for Camp Invention for the past few years have
also influenced my future plans. I have realized that I really enjoy sharing my knowledge and
research with others, especially those younger than me to which I can teach a great amount. I
want to be able to communicate my work with the public, and more specifically students, as a
part of my career. I was able to make a difference in promoting STEM fields and to hopefully
inspire those topics to become as important to my campers as they are to me.

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Hazards [Online module]. Hampton (VA): Virginia Aerospace Science and Technology
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