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Retired astronaut's camp seeks to inspire interest in STEM

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    Higher Orbits founder and President Michelle Lucas and Wadsworth At-Large Councilman Tom Stugmyer are pictured during the Go for Launch! program Wednesday at the Galaxy in Wadsworth. The two-day program uses space to teach students in grades eight to 12 about science, technology, engineering and math.

    NATHAN HAVENNER / GAZETTE

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    A space suit is displayed Wednesday during the Go for Launch! program hosted by nonprofit Higher Orbits at The Galaxy in Wadsworth.

    NATHAN HAVENNER / GAZETTE

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    From left, Josh Gray, 12, Jamison Sir Louis, 14, and Ferenc Somogyi, 15, discuss their experiment with Higher Orbits founder and former NASA employee Michelle Lucas during the Go for Launch! program Wednesday at The Galaxy in Wadsworth.

    NATHAN HAVENNER / GAZETTE

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    Thirty-two area students in grades eight to 12 are participating in the two-day Go for Launch! program offered by nonprofit Higher Orbits at The Galaxy in Wadsworth.

    NATHAN HAVENNER / GAZETTE

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    A chart displayed during the Go for Launch! program Wednesday in Wadsworth shows where NASA astronauts from Ohio were born.

    NATHAN HAVENNER / GAZETTE

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    A scale model of a space shuttle is displayed during the Go for Launch! program Wednesday hosted by nonprofit Higher Orbits at The Galaxy in Wadsworth.

    NATHAN HAVENNER / GAZETTE

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A space suit is displayed Wednesday during the Go for Launch! program hosted by nonprofit Higher Orbits at The Galaxy in Wadsworth.

NATHAN HAVENNER / GAZETTE Enlarge

WADSWORTH — Area students began designing science experiments Wednesday that could end up launched into outer space.

The Go for Launch! program presented by nonprofit Higher Orbits “is a multiday event where students work with an astronaut and we use space as an inspiration to keep them involved in science, technology, engineering and math while building teamwork, leadership and communication skills,” Higher Orbits founder Michelle Lucas said Wednesday.

Lucas said 32 students signed up for the two-day program at The Galaxy Restaurant in Wadsworth featuring retired astronaut and Wadsworth native Mike Foreman.

“I think anytime you use space-themed content to project ideas like Michelle does, leadership, communication, teamwork, that kids take to it more readily,” Foreman said during the program. “We are hoping to inspire some of them to go into (STEM) fields.”

Erik Schnell, 13, of Wadsworth, said he’s always had an interest in outer space, and thought the program was a good opportunity to learn more about NASA and the space program.

“I am excited to see what we do, as humans, to advance our exploration into space,” he said.

Erik said his team’s experiment would be about how decomposition will differ in a microgravity environment as opposed to on Earth.

Andrew Piepho, 14, of Wadsworth, said it was during a recent Main Street Wadsworth First Friday event that his mom learned about the Go for Launch! program and thought he would be interested.

“I like the science and the mystery,” Andrew said. “I have done a lot of reading about the Apollo missions.”

Andrew, who signed up with his friend, Nick Shafer, 14, said the experiment his team is working on involves how a sea slug in water would react in space.

Lucas said she founded Higher Orbits as an independent nonprofit organization after spending 10 years working for NASA.

“I used to work at NASA’s Johnson Space Center,” she said. “I was actually one of Mike Foreman’s instructors for his first space flight.”

“I just fell in love with working with students,” Lucas said. “I am not trying to turn them all into rocket scientists, but space is a great way to get people excited about science and engineering and math.”

Wadsworth At-Large Councilman Tom Stugmyer is volunteering during the program.

“For Michelle to go around the country and do this, it’s really amazing,” Stugmyer said. “It is a great program. As a kid, the closest I got to the space program was like Walter Cronkite on the 6 o’clock news.”

For more information about Higher Orbits and the Go for Launch! program, visit www.higherorbits.org.

Contact reporter Nathan Havenner at (330) 721-4050 or nhavenner@medina-gazette.com.


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