Fifth graders launch space project
By Staff Sgt. LuCelia Ball , 96th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
/ Published April 23, 2007
EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. --
Fifth-grade students from three elementary schools kicked off the 12th annual Marsville Project April 20, culminating six weeks of study about space.
The project required students from Cherokee, Longwood and Valparaiso Elementary Schools to experience a day of living in "space" simulated in Hangar 110.
During the weeks prior to Marsville, students learned about the life support systems to consider before travel into space, such as the need for air, water, food, garbage disposal and recreation. Each student built a life support model to bring with them.
"This project helps to spark an interest in math, science and technology at a young age," said Senior Master Sgt. Paul Ruiz, 96th Communications Squadron. "What are typically considered boring subjects become exciting when they are worked into a real-life scenario. Many students are having so much fun that they don't realize they are applying math and science until after the project is completed."
Tom LeMondas, a fifth-grade teacher at Valparaiso Elementary School who has been involved with the Marsville project for nine years, said most students love science after being involved in Marsville.
The project started with the teams building their habitats, large plastic pods with room for about five students. About 40 military and civilian volunteers, as well as several parents and Niceville High School Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps were on hand to assist with the construction.
Also on hand were Lt. Cols. James Dutton, a NASA astronaut-in-training, and Keith Brandt, a NASA flight surgeon. The two assisted with the building of the habitats, visited with the students and provided a speech on how the project related to real-world NASA studies on space exploration.
"This is a great age to work with students because they are the generation that will be going to Mars," Colonel Dutton said. "A project like Marsville helps them to think about the universe and relate it to the experiments they are doing. It helps them to know that the concepts they are thinking of are the same concepts we think about at NASA."
After the habitats were completed, the children gathered for lunch, consuming only 22 ounces of food and liquid each. Each student's food was weighed and packed into recyclable bags for the trip.
"The students have to think about every aspect of a trip to Mars, including the fact that all food, liquid and equipment have to be transported with them," Colonel Brandt said. "Their day-to-day living activities have to be engineered from the ground up."
A team of 96th Civil Engineers Squadron Explosive Ordnance Disposal technicians was also on hand to introduce the explosives robot to the students, in order to demonstrate the artificial help that people use to do certain jobs. Many of the students' experiments also used the concept of robots to explore, provide recreation and to transport equipment.
Marsville has been around for many years, and many of the students expressed their excitement at being involved.
"My older brother told me about it when he was in this class and I couldn't wait to be old enough to go," said Alayna Nixon, Valparaiso Elementary student.