Vt. kids quiz astronaut on International Space Station - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Vt. kids quiz astronaut on International Space Station

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Students at Christ the King School in Rutland made history Thursday, as the first students in Vermont to speak with an astronaut on board the International Space Station.

"It was a new experience," said Joey Giancola, a seventh-grader. "It was different."

The Green Mountain Wireless Society, a group of amateur radio operators, teamed up with the school's science educator Tom Estill to phone in a telebridge contact while the space station made its way over Australia.

"It's basically a telephone call, and then the telephone call goes to a guy in Australia who has a radio with a really nice antenna, and then he beams the signal up to the space station where they have a radio that receives it, and then they answer the question, it gets beamed back down right back here via the phone," explained Caid McClallan, the project manager.

This project blasted off about a year ago, when Estill submitted a proposal to NASA for permission to phone in. Having six years of experience working as an education specialist for NASA, Estill was thrilled when that proposal was accepted.

"The children know a lot about space, I have a passion for it. I believe it can, as it did me, I believe it can inspire children to these new heights, and that's what I'm trying to do," Estill said.

Sixth- through eighth-grade students asked astronaut Tim Kopra questions about his training, what it's like being on board the International Space Station and about current experiments, such as gardening, they're doing in outer space.

"I think it's kind of cool to see how much technology is enabling us," said Stefanie Allen, an eighth-grader. "I never thought it would be possible to talk to the actual astronauts, so that's pretty cool."

"I look up to them because they're so willing to go up there, they want to take that huge opportunity, that huge step, to do something only some people can dream of," said Matthew Creed, an eighth-grader.

Rare opportunities like this one are subjects Estill and the school are trying to implement into the curriculum to get students thinking about careers in science, technology, engineering and math.

"NASA is doing all that it can to inspire children to go into the STEM field," Estill said.

"It's an excellent way for these kids to get a grasp on a lot of science and stuff," McClallan said. "It's really interesting, and hopefully it does spur them along a little bit in the technology field."

Estill says he'd be more than willing to help out any educator or school in the county or even the state who would be interested in bringing this education to their students, especially after the huge success that Thursday's call turned out to be.

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