Encountering Earth


Kelly Massei (11), and [student name] work alongside Mission Commander [name] to perform a simulated mission at the Challenger Center’s Northwest Indiana facility on the campus of Purdue University Calumet. Mrs. Ruiz’s Environmental Science class took a field trip to the Challenger Center of NWI on Thursday, March 7 to beta test the program’s new Encounter Earth mission.

Jamie Clark and lakecentralnews

On Thursday, March 7, Mrs. Jackie Ruiz’s Environmental Science class went on a voyage into space through the Challenger Center of Northwest Indiana. The group boarded the bus to leave the school at 8:00 a.m. and arrived at the Challenger Center on the campus of Purdue University Calumet shortly after to learn about Earth in a new way.

“I was kind of nervous when we arrived because we were beta testing the new program for the Challenger Center and I didn’t want to mess anything up,” Kelly Massei (11) said.

The Environmental Science class was chosen to be the first high school group to go through the new mission. It was the class’s job to look for bugs in the system and comment on what they did and did not like throughout the day.

“This was a huge honor for our class because we were not charged a fee to participate and the feedback that we are giving them is going to be used to help them make this mission applicable to the public and many schools in our area,” Mrs. Ruiz said.

Upon arriving, students were split up into eight groups. Each group consisted of two or three students who were focused upon a specific area of study. These areas included the biosphere, atmosphere, cryosphere, geosphere, ocean, space weather, satellite and communications.

“I was assigned to the Communication station and I had to keep in contact with all the stations. My favorite part was talking over the intercom,” Massei said.

Students enjoyed spending the day off the Lake Central campus and into a new learning environment.

“[I was excited] because I haven’t gone on a field trip in a long time. It was a nice break from regular academics and it was cool seeing the Purdue Calumet campus,” Delia Mapes (11) said.

Once the mission was complete the students ate lunch on campus and then rode back to school, arriving at about 1:00 p.m.

“I feel that the mission was a huge success. I am very proud of all my students that went on this mission with me. The work that they did there and how professional they acted was awesome. I am very grateful and lucky to have such a great group of students,” Mrs. Ruiz said.

At the end of the day, students were pleased with the trip and the knowledge they gained while at the Challenger Center.

“I had a blast on the Challenger Mission trip. It was much different from the Challenger trips we took in elementary and middle school, but it was an enjoyable challenge. I learned that there will not always be one correct answer to a problem. Creative thinking and knowledge of the problem are required to solve a problem in the real world,” Massei said.