Smithsonian Scientist Applauds Evanston Academy Students
2014 — The message from the Smithsonian scientist to the Evanston Academy students was direct and inspiring: “You have the potential to be the next generation of explorers.”
In a video conference, Evanston Academy science students shared details of the award-winning robot they constructed of Legos and ultrasonic sensors and questioned Sharon Wilson Purdy, a Smithsonian Air and Space Museum geologist, about the challenges of remotely using Rovers to explore Mars. The 500-mile distance between D.C. and Cincinnati was erased as students and the scientist shared details of trial and error research and man’s irresistible urge to explore the universe.
“You really are awesome,” Purdy told the students, saying their work provided not only lessons for science but for life. If something doesn’t work, scientists must do it over and over, she explained. “Even in challenges, there can be success,” she said.
Guided by teacher Deidre Simpson, the sixth graders studied robotics, geology and evidence of water on Mars to prepare for the lesson related to a current Smithsonian exhibit marking the 10th anniversary of Mars exploration by Rovers Spirit and Opportunity.
Student Jeremiah Watkins explained the challenges of building and programming the robot to explore the student-built model of a multi-room science lab, saying work had to be repeated “many, many, many times.” That was the “ah-hah” moment for Purdy, whose message to the students was to keep trying.
The young scientists lined up at the microphone with questions for Purdy, ranging from how the U.S. gets the Rovers to Mars (atop rockets) and how precise are the landing points (Purdy likened it to hitting a golf ball in Tokyo and hitting the Empire State building in New York City).
Student Ti’Miyah Thompson, who never took her eyes off the screen during the hour-long conference call, afterward rattled off a list of things she learned including that the Rovers cost millions of dollars and that Mars is millions of miles away.
The project linking students to the Smithsonian was sponsored by GE Aviation, whose President and CEO, David Joyce, is the 2014 Chairman of the Board of the Air and Space Museum.
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