A Woodmere Middle School eighth-grader for a passion for space took part in a week-long summer program that boosted his zeal for the outer limits.
Darsh Chavre, 12, attended a sleep-away camp at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, NASA Marshall Space Flight Center’s Official Visitor Center in Huntsville, Alabama, a town known as “The Rocket City” due to its rich history and technological advances in space science, missile defense and biotechnology research.
Chavre said he loves learning about space and has always wanted to be an astronaut. “I’m obsessed with space to say the least,” he said, “It is just so infinite, you know? Black holes, supernovas – it has such immense power, yet it is so far.”
Space Camp was established in 1982 and aims to teach social learning skills such as communication, personal responsibility, leadership, self-confidence, cooperation, team accountability, teamwork, and social awareness, while providing hands-on, fun, and creative STEM (science, technology, education and math) experiences for people of all ages.
As learned from the movie “Hidden Figures” mathematics plays a huge role in space travel. That works out for Chavre as math is his favorite class. He’s gifted too. Chavre is part of the middle school’s double-excelled math program – taking 10th grade level geometry.
“Math is just awesome,” he said, it’s kind of a way that we can describe anything around us, and it doesn’t require any sort of instruments. The main tool is the human mind, which I find is my favorite part.”
A close second is science. “I like science just because it allows us to explain unknown phenomena,” Chavre said, and science is just cool! It allows you to perceive the world in a different light sometimes.”
His love for math and science made him a perfect fit for space camp, where he learned space and flight history, experienced simulators, completed simulated space missions and overall trained like a real astronaut.
“Program instruction is aligned to national science and math standards and framed with an exciting, immersive experience amidst a backdrop of mankind’s greatest technological achievements in space hardware,” according to the Space Camp website.
The camp’s simulators give campers realistic moon travel experiences with the multi access trainer, which spins its users around in what Chavre referred to as “the five degrees of freedom,” a term used in statistics. The two main simulated space missions that his team worked on were what he called the lunar mission and Mars mission.
The lunar mission is a mock mission for NASA’s Artemis space program, which focuses on sending humans to the moon. During the mock mission, Chavre was given the job of being a flight engineer, where he performed extra vehicular activities in the five degrees of freedom chair and focused to build a puzzle in the moving chair.
Space Camp lectures also included creative activities like imagining a space mission and designing a space patch to represent that mission.
Campers were able to look around the Rocket Center’s museum after lectures to enrich their learning experience. The Smithsonian-affiliated museum has space technology-related mini games and artifacts including real space suits from each space mission.
Besides space related camp activities, Chavre bonded with other campers by playing card games and talking together in the space-themed bunks before bed. The sleeping bunks are “designed to resemble the ISS [International Space Station],” the U.S. Space and Rocket Center stated in a news release.
The camp has produced graduates that continue STEM studies and 10 astronauts. Chavre will also continue learning. “He plans to go next year for aviation,” his father, Milind, said.
The biggest takeaway from space camp? Chavre took a minute and ultimately said: “There wasn’t really a big takeaway. It just enhanced my passions for space.”
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