37 Marist boys spent four days at the Kennedy Space Centre, along with students from Mount St Benedict College, as part of an 11-day trip to the US.
The years 10, 11 and 12 students spent very little time in classrooms or even sitting down – instead using virtual reality to tour the International Space Station, practice doing repairs to equipment on Mars, and even spacewalk.
“It was all very hands-on,” said Year 10 student Elliot Inman.
He added the only passive part of the experience was a bus tour of the facility on the day they arrived. It included a talk by an astronaut who was part of the Atlantis mission, viewing historic space shuttles like the Saturn, and visits to active launch pads.
“They actually launched a rocket there the day before,” said Year 12 student Ryan Lange.
Marist College North Shore Deputy Headmaster Richard Grech said the NASA visit was a completely unique opportunity for students to experience STEM “at its pinnacle.”
“To see these things in real life, as opposed to just in a picture, was really valuable for our boys.”
My favourite moment was just standing underneath the Saturn 5 rocket
He said “everything” the school did on the trip had a STEM focus behind it, from understanding the physics of the iFly experience to learning how to grow microplants and why they’re more nutritious.
“But it reached beyond STEM, even into the historical basis around how the space program started and the finances involved today.”
“We’re learning about the Cold War, and obviously the Space Race was significant,” he said.
Many of the boys agreed that seeing the rockets themselves, and knowing they were built with lesser technology than powers their iPhones, was inspiring.
“I think my favourite moment was just standing underneath the Saturn 5 rocket – just the colossal size of it,” Daniel said.