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Morrison educator attends Space Camp; will use acquired skills in classroom

Photo courtesy Tammy Will
Training at the Educator's Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama in June 2017.
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MORRISON, Okla. – Listening to science teacher Tammy Will talk about her recent experience at “Space Camp,” you get the sense that she is still processing in her mind all the fascinating and cool things she got to do and all the experiences she had.

And what’s even better is that Will will soon be bringing some of that knowledge with her into the classroom.

“It was pretty intense,” Will said during a phone interview with Red Dirt Report. “We were busy from morning until night. And after it was over we were very tired.”

But Will, who teaches at Morrison High School in this small town north of Stillwater, saw the chance of attending this year’s Honeywell Educators at Space Academy (HESA) in Huntsville, Ala. in mid-June as the opportunity of a lifetime.

“I was very fortunate to go,” she said. “There are many teachers that apply to go to this camp and to get to go was quite an honor.”

And it was an “out of this world” experience with an international flavor, with science and math teachers from around the world participating. Will was not the only Oklahoman to attend, however, with a teacher from Owasso also taking part in the roughly week-long HESA, hands-on experience, which was paid for by Honeywell and included 200 participants from the U.S., Norway, Indonesia and 30 other countries.

Additionally, more than 3 million students have been reached and inspired by 2,776 math & science HESA alumni from 62 countries and 52 U.S. states and territories since 2004.

Some of the participants at the June Educator's Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama. (Photo courtesy Tammy Will)

And what did Will and the other teachers experience? Everything from a high-performance jet simulation to land and water survival training to an interactive flight dynamics program. And of course, it wouldn’t be “Space Camp” without a “scenario-based space mission.”

“It was a week of intense learning,” recalled Will.

Will is part of a tradition in Oklahoma of fascination with outer space travel, as this state has been home to more astronauts than any other state, including Gordon Cooper, who was the first American to fly two orbits around Earth in Mercury capsule; Lt. Gen. Thomas P. Stafford who was part of the Gemini, Apollo and Apollo-Soyuz programs between 1965-1975; Shannon Lucid, who flew on multiple Space Shuttle missions and once held the record for the longest duration stay in space by an American in the Mir Space Station (88 days); Stuart A. Roosa, who flew on Apollo 14 in 1971; Enid native Owen K. Garriott, who flew aboard Skylab 3 in 1973 and was part of a 1983 Space Shuttle Columbia mission;  and William R. Pogue who was aboard NASA’s Skylab 4 in 1973-74, where the crew studied Comet Kohoutek among other scientific duties.

So, Tammy Will was in good company in this regard, as she explained she was chosen to be commander of the International Space Station, fly in a Space Shuttle and even go to the Martian moon of Phobos, where problems occurred while trying to land but were worked out cooperatively by Will and the crew.

“It was a big teamwork thing,” Will said. “We went through a debriefing and discussed what went well and how best to communicate.”

She continued: “All of my teammates got along really well, despite some of the language and cultural barriers.”

Will, 56, was a child when the NASA Moon missions were being conducted and recalls it being discussed in elementary school. She said she watched the Space Shuttle program over the years (before it was retired in 2011).

And one memory she has is of her talking to her grandmother when she was a child, and her grandmother having difficulty believing humans going to the Moon.

One of the highlights for Will was meeting ISS and Space Shuttle astronaut Clay Anderson, who retired from NASA spaceflight projects in 2013 and is the only astronaut from Nebraska. He was at the Space Camp event meeting participants and signing copies of his book, The Ordinary Spaceman.

“He was really down-to-earth,” said Will. “I told him how my son is interested in being an astronaut and (Anderson) said, ‘Don’t give up.’ He was very personable.”

Tammy Will with astronaut Clay Anderson. (Photo courtesy Tammy Will)

As was former NASA engineer and author Homer Hickam, whose book Rocket Boys was made into the 1999 film October Sky.

“(Hickam) talked a lot about the Space Program and it was great to hear from someone who actually had an impact on where our Space Program has gone,” Will said.

And now that Will, a teacher of 14 years, is back in Morrison, she has had lots of experience with robotics through the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) program she leads at Morrison High, will continue the hour-long problem-based, problem-solving projects to her STEM students. This has included small projects, including the building of hovercraft, powered by a leaf blower, and even small robots.

And with her training at Educator’s Space Camp in Huntsville, she is looking to test out the “neutral buoyancy lab” she took part in, hoping to have her students try it out and test it themselves at a nearby YMCA swimming pool. This is a project which is to find the neutral buoyancy of an astronaut, something that can be a tricky process, and one that interested Will.

At the camp, though, they were in a tank with a  sandy bottom and were taught to survive water-based crashed and so forth.

“We had some many activities going on, all day and all night,” she said.

Tammy Will, during training at HESA Space Camp. (Photo courtesy Tammy Will)

Will said her principal and the staff at Morrison High (which is now only a four-days-a-week school) are impressed with what she has accomplished with the program so far, with Will chuckling, “I don’t think they realized at the time (they approved the STEM program) what they were unleashing.”

And about her skeptical grandmother from all those years ago, Red Dirt Report asked Will what her grandmother would think about the growth of space exploration.

“My grandparents were poor dirt farmers. They had eight children and my dad was the youngest,” she said. “I remember (grandmother) making that comment. If only she knew what we were trying to do now, including going to Mars …”

Added Will: “I think she’d be overwhelmed.”

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Andrew W. Griffin

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Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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About Red Dirt Report

Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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