Katelyn Shannon, Grade 11, from Brisbane, Australia, recently returned from the Honeywell Leadership Challenge Academy at the US Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama. She applied to this program and was selected from a worldwide pool of applicants to attend a five day camp free of charge. We sat down with her to learn about this exciting experience.
When did you attend the camp and who did you go with?
The camp was from February 27th-March 3rd of this year and I had to take multiple flights to get to Huntsville, Alabama where it was held. We went from Dubai, to London, to Chicago and finally to Huntsville. My mom came with me on the flights. She used me as an excuse to go visit her friend in Sacramento!
What was this camp all about?
The Space and Rocket Center runs three camps: Robotics, Aviation and Space. The Honeywell Challenge combines all three aspects of these camps with a focus on Leadership. At the end of the week you get a certificate of completion. I also got the nomination for the Dave Cote Leadership Award, which was really cool. It is given to students who have demonstrated the ability to motivate and lead their team to accomplish their goals during the leadership program. After the ceremony we had a big dance party which was awesome as well.
What did you do at the camp?
We did lots and lots of different activities. Lots of simulations in the FA- 15 fighter jet simulator then we used that training in missions with the fighting jets.
One activity was to make heat shields with different materials like aluminium and copper wire and then we had to test it against blow torch. The goal was to make it withstand the head for 5 minutes. The first trial we lasted 3 minutes and in the second one there was a design fault and only lasted 1.5 minutes.
We also did a space mission so there were 120 plus people there and we were separated into groups of 12-16 and each group does its own thing. Our group got split into three sections for the mission: the Space shuttle, the International Space Station (ISS) and mission control. I was in mission control as the PAYCOM (payload command) where I talked to the ISS and they did all the experiments. I oversaw when the shuttle came up to the station and swapped people then came back to Earth. So mission control dealt with the trajectory and environment and engineering of the space shuttle as well. It was a successful mission. Everyone lived! They put us through different situations and problems and we had to flip through this big book full of acronyms to figure out what they were saying.
We also did something called Incident Control. Because it was in Huntsville, we did a simulation recreating a tornado that actually hit the town a few years ago. You had all the groups of people you would’ve found in the real life situation and go through all of the rescue procedures. But our search and rescue group blew up 12 people because they forgot to turn off the gas! There was a gas explosion. But we did rescue 33 people! So the scenarios they put us through were very accurate and detailed.
What was your favorite part/activity?
Probably the incident control or the different rides they have. One of the rides is the Space shuttle where you get flung up and down and when it’s changing direction you are hanging in mid-air. Another is the centrifuge, two people go inside and it starts spinning around till it goes up to 3Gs. Also we had good guest speakers including a former astronaut, an engineer and a judge. They talked about what they do and how they got there and talked about leadership. It was a leadership camp so throughout the week they sneaked in things about leadership.
Did you ever get sick on the rides or in the simulations?
I didn’t get sick at all during the rides. If you lift your head up you will get dizzy but if you keep your head back you don’t feel it at all. I’m not sure why that is, I will have to find that out.
Were you ever scared?
It was more intense than it was scary. We got tired a bit because of the hours we worked and there were some very stressful moments trying not to crash in the flight simulator. And we had to give a presentation to people which was a bit stressful but fun.
Where did you stay during the camp?
They have two different habitats in the camp. I was in a room with all the girls on my team which was really cool because we got to know each other really well.
Who was in your group?
We had 15 people in my group, our team name was Purpose. I really liked meeting all the people from all over the world. Our team included people from: Canada, Mexico, France, Poland, USA, Hungary, UAE, Puerto Rico, Saudi Arabia, and the Czech Republic.
Do you think this trip had an impact on you?
Yes! I want to go back next year as an ambassador. You can’t do the camp twice but you can apply to be an ambassador which I plan on doing. I originally wanted to do a Bachelors of Science after I graduate but now you want to dual degree with engineering because of my experience in this course!