Have you ever imagined yourself traveling through the stars to walk along the craggy face of the moon?
This year, participants at AdventHealth University’s (AHU) Summer Science Camp had a chance to virtually experience that for themselves. The 4th annual summer camp brought another week of learning and exploring for middle school students of the Boys & Girls Club of Central Florida. This year’s event took place near the same date as an important milestone in science history — the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing on July 20, 1969. From June 24 to June 28, 2019, the children participated in a series of activities meant to interest them in the field of STEM education through presentations, interactive simulations, and demonstrations. AHU organized a special event in partnership with NASA on Tuesday, June 25, led by NASA- sponsored physician Esther Beltran, M.D, Ph.D., chief scientist at the Florida Space Institute at the University of Central Florida (UCF). This activity simulated the famous Apollo moon missions, including six different landing sites.
The VR lunar guide, created by NASA scientists and based on past expeditions, including Apollo 11, showcased real-life space travel challenges and solutions for the young astronauts. The children utilized VR goggles to explore a visual simulation of what the Apollo mission astronauts may have seen.
Beltran is passionate about these outreach opportunities. “I’m doing this because I wish I could have done something like this as a kid,” she said. “You give them a spark, and they take off.” She also talked about the importance of showing students the many inter- professional collaborations that happen in the STEM field. As a child she was interested in space, and once she got older she realized there were ways to combine her love for space science with her medical field background.
The annual event also included a trip to the Orlando Science Center, a hands-on science museum that aims to inspire more curiosity for science and exploration. Faculty and staff volunteered throughout the week to take the boys and girls on tours of the University’s labs, demonstrating the immersive simulators that the students use in their coursework.
Another activity took the children through an interactive “Game of Life” — using the board game as inspiration. Each child was assigned a healthcare career and a salary to create a budget. Then, they made decisions about housing, transportation, food, and other life essentials, including entertainment like going to the movies, while managing their money. It’s a fun but practical activity that equips the children with skills like financial literacy, life management, team building, and problem solving.
Kendra VanHouten, director of community engagement at AHU, said, “It was inspiring to watch the excitement when the campers virtually landed on the moon, or learned about how to budget for their future, or [about] all the interesting ways science impacts everyday life.”
AHU strives to find ways to connect with the community through education, in which healthcare and medicine can be brought together with other disciplines to advance the practice of whole-person care. By instilling intrigue and interest in STEM, young people can begin to imagine unique, exciting futures for themselves.
This work was jointly supported by the NASA Planetary Science Division under the Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute Cooperative Agreement (NNA17BF68A).
AdventHealth University | September 2019