Dozen locals jet set for space program

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Berwick students are among about 200 teenagers from across the country chosen to take part in a space school program at NASA in America.

In alignment with the recent push for girls to pursue science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) related career paths, the two-week program will empower young female selectees with the chance to visit the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in Houston and to work with leaders in the field.

Twelve St Margaret’s Berwick students will lift off to HASSE Space School for both senior and junior expeditions this December, with the opportunity to experience STEM in a world setting.

Year 12 student Jessica Bhardwaj said the trip would provide her with rich, hands-on experience that would be a valuable talking point for future job interviews regardless of what field she decided to pursue.

“Apart from being in a whole different country and learning a new culture, it’ll be a great way to end the year. Not many people would have this kind of an opportunity. It’s great not only for the resume but for my own life experience,” Jessica said.

“We’re given a group mission where we work in groups of four or five. We’re given a synopsis to a problem and work on it over a few days. We then present it to a panel and if they like the idea then we’ll enter in a global competition.”

Year 7 student Mehr Ali was fortunate to have been awarded one of the two scholarships on offer to Victorian students by the Alliance of Girls’ Schools Australasia, which covers all program costs and includes domestic and international flights, accommodation, meals and ground travel.

“I took an immediate interest in science classes since starting high school,” the 12-year-old said.

“Part of the program involves going to a university in Houston for astronaut training and to disect sharks so that will be a new experience.

“There’ll be a lot of useful information, and hopefully it will give me an insight into what I might like to do in the future, and if science is my passion, to concentrate on that.”

St Margaret’s Head of Science Department Krista Bayliss said it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the girls to meet NASA scientists, astronauts and physicists.

She said attendees would develop 21st century skills in problem solving, logistical planning and group communication while planning for a mission to Mars.

“It is an amazing opportunity and one which has seen St Margaret’s send the equal largest group of students to take part in this two-week experience,” Ms Bayliss said.

“This is reflective of our girls’ passion for the ‘sciences’, their resilience and willingness to step outside their comfort zone and the wonderful support of their learning from their families – that we have such a large group taking part in such an amazing experience.”

Other participating Victorian schools include Ivanhoe Girls Grammar School, Loreto Manderville Hall, Mentone Girls Grammar School, St Columba’s College, Firbank, Strathcona and Catholic Ladies College.

Originally published at Pakenham Gazette.


About Alana Mitchelson

Alana Mitchelson is a journalist based in Melbourne, Australia. Follow her on Twitter at @AlanaMitchelson.

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