Students Train Like Astronauts At Space Center University

There’s a focus on international cooperation as NASA moves to the next phase in space travel.


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Space Center University is a five-day, immersive engineering program that features separate tracks for middle school, high school and university students. The program is offered 52 weeks a year at Space Center Houston, located adjacent to NASA’s Johnson Space Center.

Students taking part in the program are given group projects where they have to find common solutions to engineering problems. There's both classroom instruction and laboratory work, and students also go behind the scenes to learn how astronauts train for missions.

President and CEO of Space Center Houston, William Harris, said they've recently made changes to the program to make the content more robust.

"We really instill in them greater problem solving skills, analytical skills, problem-solving skills, and most importantly coach them on how to work through adversity and challenges," said Harris. "They are really life skills that will serve them in all different arenas."

This week's session includes 50 students from Colombia, Spain and Malaysia. Harris said they'll all bring their individual life experiences as they learn to work together as a team.

"One hallmark of the program is that it attracts students from around the world," said Harris. "We like to mix kids from different countries."

That cross-cultural team building is considered crucial to the success of the International Space Station and other space endeavors.

"Going to space is really hard and very dangerous and for a single nation to do it is pretty difficult," said Harris. "It will take an international collaboration to succeed in a way to safely send humans to Mars and back and into deeper space."

Harris said for many of their international students, Space Center University is their first trip to the United States. And they often describe it as a life-changing experience that motivates them to work harder in their studies.

"They developed a much greater sense of empathy," said Harris. "And I think most importantly they learn how to work together in teams and how to collaborate and be tolerant and appreciative of other viewpoints."

Harris added that they're increasing the variety of their Space Center University programs in the coming year, including one that simulates a survival mission and another that focuses on flight operations.

Details on how to register for Space Center University are on the Space Center Houston website.

CORRECTION: This article has been updated to reflect that the program is run out of Space Center Houston.

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Gail Delaughter

Gail Delaughter

Transportation Reporter

From early-morning interviews with commuters to walks through muddy construction sites, Gail covers all aspects of getting around Houston. That includes walking, driving, cycling, taking the bus, and occasionally flying. Before she became transportation reporter in 2011, Gail hosted weekend programs for Houston Public Media. She's also covered courts in...

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