Perseverance is not a vague concept to students at Wallingford’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Academy. It’s a relevant and timely value thanks to a remarkable success yesterday when they established communication with the International Space Station traveling about 300 miles above the Earth’s surface.
In October, the students endured a failed attempt to contact the station via amateur radio as it passed over North America. But they were determined to try again along with Chris Stone, a Wallingford fifth-grade teacher and the founder of the STEM program. They had been disappointed they weren’t able to have the conversation they’d put so much work toward, but they realized the event was useful in experiencing the realities of being a scientist. Science, like life, offers many reasons to try, try again, if first you don’t succeed.
The climate was ripe with anticipation Saturday morning at the Spanish Community of Wallingford (SCOW) building where about 75 people gathered in the hope of hearing from an astronaut in space. STEM students spent weeks developing questions and learning about the space station.
Middle School Student Francesea Mautte was one of ten students prepared to ask questions. She thinks the STEM program makes learning fun, and she raves about the interactive lessons.
The window of communication with the space station was limited to about 15 minutes as it passed over the eastern seaboard of the United States. Mautte, along with her friends, was excited to speak to Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata when a successful connection was made at about 10:17 a.m.
Mautte asked if astronauts aboard the space station celebrate holidays. Wakata responded, “We do celebrate holidays like Christmas and New Year’s Day.”
With a crew of individuals from across the world, he said, “it’s quite the experience when we celebrate different holidays.”
Another student asked Wakata how the station stays supplied. Wakata replied that shuttles drop off supplies as they bring astronauts to and from the space station.
Another student asked how astronauts aboard the station prepare food.
“All the food is prepared in packs on the ground,” Wakata said, adding that astronauts use hot water or heat to ready the meals in space.
Ultimately, the signal from the space station faded. The astronaut was out of reach but the day’s lesson in perseverance was loud and clear. School Superintendent Salvatore Menzo said perseverance is a core value in the Wallingford public schools. “A moment like that is worth every minute of hard work,” he said.
CEA has sponsored the STEM program. President Sheila Cohen told the students, “Today is a highlight of your public education that you will long remember.”