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Lee STEM students question an astronaut

October 9, 2018
By CJ HADDAD ( , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

Students from across Lee County got an out-of-this-world experience Monday afternoon as they were able to speak to an astronaut, in space, via Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS).

At Allen Park Elementary in Fort Myers, 21 students had the chance to ask astronaut Serena Aunon-Chancellor a question of their choosing, having prepared nearly a year for this opportunity.

"The students are amazing and have worked very hard towards this goal," said fifth grade science teacher at Allen Park, Courtney Black, in a written statement. "Their enthusiasm and dedication towards STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and space exploration leaves me with no doubt that someday, they will be the on the other side of an ARISS contact. This group of future astronauts, engineers and educators serves as a daily inspiration and a reminder of the importance of investing in our future."

Article Photos

Peyton Moon McCarthy, a North Fort Myers freshman, reads her question to Serena Auñón-Chancellor

Questions ranged from "How do you relax?" to "How often do you get to talk to your family?" and "Who inspired you to be an astronaut?"

With help from the Fort Myers Amateur Radio Club, along with CenturyLink, these youngsters were provided with everlasting memories, which will hopefully drive them even further to pursue a future in the sciences.

"We have enjoyed every minute working with the students and seeing the excitement build for the ISS contact," said Brian Darley, CenturyLink network technician and program chair of the Fort Myers Amateur Radio Club, in a written statement. "We are so proud to provide the connection that will have a lifelong impact for everyone involved."

One by one, each student stepped up to the radio microphone to ask their question, as Aunon-Chancellor responded back for the whole cafeteria, filled with students, parents and supporters, to hear.

"It was really rewarding," said Cape Coral High School senior Maite Araiza of her experience. "It went by kind of fast, but was still a really cool experience for me, especially because that's my dream job-to be an astronaut-so it was really a great opportunity."

Araiza said she had always been intrigued with science, and that she wants to bring her love of STEM subjects to other young females in the future.

She wants to attend the U.S. Naval Academy, and has her application in the works, which she said is a long one, but will be worth it because they have graduated the most astronauts in history.

The unknown is what piques her interest when it comes to space, and how much we don't yet know.

"I just really love space and the mystery of it. There's so much to be explored and I would love to be a part of that," Araiza said. "And how they're planning to go to Mars, I think that would be really interesting to go be a multi-planet species."

For North Fort Myers freshman Peyton Moon McCarthy, she can't recall a time where she wasn't enthralled with space, and is so grateful to have had this opportunity.

"We've been practicing for such a long time, and to finally get here-it was such a one in a lifetime experience," she said. "To stand up there talking to someone on the ISS was so incredible and I'm still mind blown right now that I got to experience something like that."

She hopes to one day have a job in a field that would give her the opportunity to work with companies such as NASA, but on the engineering side of the coin

"I really want to keep focusing on engineering and mathematics, that's always been my passion," said McCarthy. "It would be incredible to work with companies such as NASA or Space X, I would really like to do the engineering side, behind the scenes.

"I like to see how things work, and what leads up to the final result, so I would like to be a part of that."

A smile could be found ear-to-ear on each student who had the opportunity to ask a question to an astronaut, something they'll surely not forget in this galaxy or another.

-Connect with this reporter on Twitter: @haddad_cj



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