For the first time last week, students at Kenai Middle School were able to take part in a mission to Mars simulation at the Challenger Learning Center of Alaska in Kenai via interactive real-time television transmission.
The experience was made possible by volunteer efforts of the local Moose Horn Amateur Radio Club according to Rob Carillo, a Ham and assistant flight director at the Center, "What we are doing is using our ham licenses to be able to broadcast amateur television what is happening here at the Center during a mission to students at the receiving end over at Kenai Middle School. They will view it over cable TV and we are using ultra high frequency to send the signal over free airspace to the school," explained Carillo. The students in the simulator acted as field reporters and were able to answer questions from the students at the remote location, which acted as a control center for the mission.
The simulation was the inspiration of Bill Hatch, Kenai Middle School teacher and librarian, "I teach a class in video production and my initial thought was to have a meaningful project for the kids to do because that's what motivates learning," said Hatch. As the day drew near for the actual Ham television mission, the kids were ecstatic and well prepared according to Hatch. "It was simply awesome, the technology worked without a hitch and the kids were so well prepared that the television broadcast added a lot to the simulation of information that the kids synthesized during the virtual mission. It was a total success. The kids had a goal and that applied to other curriculums as well and the light bulb goes on and they see why they have to learn those subjects, and they want to learn, it's very exciting," said Hatch.
Everyone involved seemed pleased with the mission and plans are for more in the future. "Everything went as planned, and we are very pleased with the way it all worked out," said Kathy Jewell, events coordinator at the Challenger Center. "I feel confident that we'll continue to do it hear at Kenai Middle and I think that this will be something that other Challenger Centers around the nation will want to explore further as well, it's the kind of additional role to the simulations that they do that is meaningful to kids and I think could catch on around the country," added Hatch.
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