AMOS Space Conference inspires middle-school students

Sep 26, 2018

On Friday, September 14th, in what has become a highly anticipated annual event at the AMOS Conference, MEDB hosted 150 Maui STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) students and 15 teachers during Space Exploration Day. The students experienced hands-on space-related presentations by the AMOS exhibitors.

Becky Johnson, a senior system engineer from AGI, explains how they track objects in space during the AMOS Space Exploration Day.

For example, Becky Johnson, a senior system engineer from AGI, explained their exhibit for the students. “We showed the students a video of a lot of objects in space and how we keep them safe. AGI makes an app showing satellite locations that anyone can download and see what satellites are above them.”
“Our hope with events like this is to reach as many students as possible, expose them to the unknown, and excite them to pursue a STEM career,” said Mapu Quitazol, MEDB Women in Technology (WIT) Program Manager. “There were a lot of ideas and lessons in scientific inquiry that the students will be taking back to the classroom. Space Exploration Day planted seeds for future career choices.”

Lori Ann Koyama, one of four STEMworks™ AFTERschool instructors at Lahaina Intermediate School, said, “I’m a much better teacher because of the tools MEDB and WIT have given me.  My students are becoming more concerned about big global issues. Coming to AMOS increases understanding of STEM subjects and how they are applied to real-world space-related issues.”

Koyama concluded, “Wow! Who knew even half of these companies that provided the students with presentations, existed? It was a blessing to be able to show a handful of my students some of the amazing STEM companies that are out there, give them a glimpse of what types of careers are available to them, and to talk with experts in the industry.”

Students visited a number of AMOS Exhibitors during the Space Exploration Day.

Lahaina Intermediate 8th grader Morgan Jenks said, “I learned many things, but one of them really stuck with me. At one of the booths there was an exhibitor talking about the sun and the Daniel. K. Inouye Solar Telescope that is being built on top of Haleakala. It was interesting how they took different pictures of the sun and how much information it showed. I got to keep a few of the photos. I’m so thankful for this opportunity because it confirmed my future. It helped me realize how in love I am with the universe!”
Seventh-grader Kiana Claydon added, “Today I learned a lot about what is going on in space. For example, we learned that people must track satellites and space debris, so they don’t hit each other and create more debris. I also learned that we need to find a way to protect all our satellites including the International Space Station.”
Sixth-grader Hoken Hironaka learned about the movement of satellites and the telescopes that track them. She said, “I learned the importance and consequences of what’s happening in outer space and how it all relates to our everyday lives. Without MEDB, students wouldn’t experience technology firsthand and we wouldn’t be on this field trip acquiring all this information.”
Eighth-grader Jayse Koyama agreed, “The Space Exploration Day at AMOS made me consider working on inventing improved artificial-intelligence systems in the future. My favorite exhibit was at CACI (Consolidated Analysis Centers, Inc.) because it interested me in new concepts that are still being worked on.”
Sawyer Dunning Zeches, seventh-grader, also discovered how much is still not known about outer space. “This field trip showed me more about engineering, which is my career choice,” he said. “I am very glad that MEDB gave me this opportunity as well as my STEMworks™ AFTERschool program, which is awesome!”
Like-minded eighth-grader Jaymie Diga added, “Without MEDB I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to learn about satellites, telescopes, space, and its hazards. I am in the STEMworks™ AFTERschool media production class and wouldn’t have the equipment to do my projects without what MEDB provides to us. Also, they offer amazing experiences that are helping us to expand our future choices for jobs in Hawaii.”

Practical Learning

A favorite hands-on experiment for Lahaina Intermediate sixth-grader Aumnart Lapus, and many students, was at the SAIC (Science Applications International Corporation) exhibit. The purpose of the project at SAIC was to show students the importance of protecting a satellite from debris impact. The materials used were fish weight, string, banana or potato, tissue paper, foil, and paper.
Operating as a team, the students wrapped their satellite with the materials provided to see how it will fair in a space debris environment. They named their satellite and tested against heavy space debris. The best design using the materials provided with minimal bruising or dents was the winner.
SAIC exhibitors explained how we think of outer space as empty, but that’s not the case around planet Earth. There are millions of pieces of man-made debris floating around. This debris causes potential problems for astronauts, satellites and other important pieces of equipment circling Earth.
One of the hazards of space is the presence of high-speed particles. Particles can be as small as a grain of sand, have a mass that is only a fraction of a gram, but can travel at speeds up to many kilometers per second, making them very hazardous. The near-earth space environment has a problem of space debris such as paint chips and metal objects from old rocket boosters and satellites. Being struck by one of these objects is dangerous to our valuable assets in space as well as to astronauts. Satellites as well as spacesuits must be designed with materials that are resistant to impacts.
“To protect satellites and astronauts, and soon space tourists, engineers have to give the ships some sort of armor,” explained Michael A. Gutto, Vice Present of Programs Launch Space and Cyber 1 Intel-Air Force. “Right now, NASA uses something called Whipple shielding, which consists of a thin, aluminum ‘sacrificial’ wall mounted at a distance from a rear wall. The function of the first sheet or ‘bumper’ is to break up the projectile into a cloud of material containing both projectile and bumper debris.”
Lahaina Intermediate student Lapus concluded, “At the SAIC exhibit, the experiment showed me the importance of creating a strong-enough shield to protect a satellite from getting destroyed from space debris, and that there are so many different space-related jobs that are needed. I would like to be part of that research in the future. I’m thankful to MEDB for giving us the opportunity to experience the different careers available in the space industry.”

‘Iokepa Meno, Lokelani Intermediate School STEMworks™ teacher, said, “AMOS continues to amaze, awe, influence, and bring space-aimed dreams to Maui students. MEDB has invested in our island keiki with opportunities to become future leaders in the community and the world. This year, the AMOS exhibitors drew the students in and reminded them that they too belong to the global community. There is no other way to bring the heavens closer to the hearts and minds of our keiki than by showcasing the dreams and technological advances of the aerospace professionals and scientists.”

Lokelani student Donelle Rei Medina said, “I learned about different space-related jobs and how different companies help astronauts and satellites stay safe. I hope that other students can have the same experience that I had.”
Jennifer Suzuki, Maui Waena Intermediate School STEMworks™ advisor, added, “The AMOS Conference gave my students a glimpse at careers and opportunities that they may never have known about. They come away interested, inspired, and full of ideas.”
Izzy Hickman, Maui Waena 8th grader, said, “I really enjoyed going to the AMOS Conference and learning about how even a small island like ours can have a big impact on the world by giving astronomers with eager minds a clear view of the skies.”

Excitedly, Chole Virgino, Maui Waena 7th grader, concluded, “After attending the AMOS Conference, I don’t know which is bigger, my dreams or outer space!”