One by one, Reed Steele called to each team on his fresh-faced crew, a group of students faced with the daunting task of replicating a major space icon in two hours.
"Safety team, are you a go? Life support, are you a go?" Mr. Steele, the lead flight instructor, asked. "Media team, are you a go? Payload specialists, are you a go? Mission specialists, are you a go?"
Ready, everyone replied.
"OK," Mr. Steele said. "Let's build a space station!"
Not the real International Space Station, of course. The 22-by-15-by-12-foot replica is actually much smaller than the station, which is so large it would hang over the sides of a football stadium, students explained matter-of-factly yesterday.
The demonstration at the Collingwood Center, 2275 Collingwood Blvd., capped a week of training and other space-related activities at the International Space Station Summer Camp, a five-day venture sponsored by the Lucas County Educational Service Center in conjunction with the Challenger Learning Center of Lucas County.
The students, many of them
aspiring astronauts and scientists, practiced assembling the ship, brushed up on their snorkeling skills, and will take home a heap of knowledge about space exploration, organizers said.
With assembly-line efficiency, the students - ranging from seventh to 12th graders - pulled piece after piece into the water, connecting the aluminum frame, forcing air out of the PVC pipes, unfolding the solar panels. Each section corresponded to various chambers of the actual station, explained 13-year-old Xander Bihn.
Xander narrated the process, step by step, with a tone of unblinking professionalism. "This is a very crucial part," he intoned.
About 10 of his colleagues swarmed about the station, passing parts into the pool in an order they had memorized over the week. They communicated with hand signals: thumbs up to say they were rising, thumbs down to sink, a hand on the chest to indicate that they were short of air and needed the students holding their 25-foot oxygen lines to help.
Parents, grandparents, and friends standing alongside the pool were spellbound.
"They're like space contractors, that's what they are," Becky Klaehn, a beaming grandmother, said. "That you can get this many kids together for something like this, it's just great. This is part of our future."
One hour and 50 minutes into the mission, with the submerged station sporting blue plastic solar panels, Mr. Steele popped to the surface.
"Hey, guess what?" he announced. "We just built ourselves a space station!"
The applause echoed through the room, Mrs. Klaehn smiled, and Jennifer Wilson gazed down at her 14-year-old daughter, Charlisa Hutchen, from a ledge overlooking the pool. "It's a great program," she said. "And it's really interesting to know what all goes on out there, in space. You don't see this in their science books."
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