WAS Day 1

Washington Aerospace Scholars, Sunday July 14

Yay! Red Team won the arrival contest (everything is competition this week) by being the first group to have all of their students arrive at the hotel.

We travelled to the Museum of Flight (MoF) for an orientation and then moon landing simulation (Challenger Learning Center, CLC), and tour of the MoF.

The students totally got into the simulation. They were engaged in their tasks (broken into teams like Com, NAV, Life support, Probe, medical, and Isolation) and they were engaged in the interactions.

Here’s how the simulation was set up. Red team and gray team worked together. For the first hour gray was mission control and red team was in the space ship (destination moon base). For the second hour red team was mission control and gray team was space ship.

Each student sits at a computer and performs tasks relevant to their role on the mission. On the Space ship scholars are doing robotics, or probe testing, or managing life support systems, very hands on stuff. At mission control students are working on worksheets related to tasks and interacting with space ship counterparts.

Periodically, the simulation is interrupted by emergency scenarios that a team has to deal with. We had an oxygen problem, a power issue and a meteoroid strike. The emergencies add some urgency to the activities and overcoming them is cause for some celebration.

Most telling was the oxygen problem where the life support team is working quickly (frantically?) and the rest if the teams are to to "continue with your regular activities". Good teams can probably handle that…bad teams probably unravel since our fate is in a small group’s hands.

One student I talked to felt like the mission control side if the simulation was less exciting than the space ship side. I took a look at the mission control worksheets and am thinking about ways you could use a team-based simulation in science/math class.

One aspect if the simulation that seemed essential was the idea of asynchronous communication. Each scholar’s counterpart in mission control or the space ship was communicating via email and audible commands through the Com role. One student felt good when their messages were announced via the com person for all to hear, I felt like it encumbered speed of communication, but will have to think more on what purpose it serves.

Next we toured MoF guided by a docent who was quite knowledgeable. In fact, since our tour guide was from Germany and since we were touring in the world war 2 airplanes section, he was able to add some personal information like "my father was a German infantryman and remembers seeing P-38s fly overhead". In other commentary he stated that "German expenditures on the less than successful v2 rocket program were a significant drain on war effort, had Germany not wasted so much on that one weapon, they might have been able to spend more on other weapons and the course of the war might have been very different"

After the guided tours we had a chance to do our own touring. I got "lost" in the red barn part of the exhibit and wound up being late to our pre-dinner rendezvous. This everyone had to wait on me for dinner.

Over dinner (qdoba) we went over the rules, had a mixing activity (snowballs) and determined the major parameters of the mission. Interestingly, when it comes to length of mission, very few people wanted a 30 day mission or a one-way mission versus a 500 day mission. Students voted on their choice and then shared why. Arguments weren’t very concrete. The same happened for size of mission as most students opted for 5-9 sized team. And here is the interesting thing…every week of scholars has picked the same mission parameters.

After that we wrapped up the evening at MOF took our buses back to the hotel and grabbed our rooms. Curfew check was no problem and I fell right to sleep.

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