Kids reach to the heavens at Marietta College space camp

MARIETTA – Planes, balloons, kites.

Twelve-year-old Bijou Burgardt knows they all fly but until this week, she never really wondered how.

“That’s something I guess I’m considering for the first time,” said the Marietta Middle School seventh-grader. “I want to learn more about it.”

She’s getting that chance, along with 38 other participants, in the 23rd 4-H Space Adventure Camp, which kicked off Tuesday at Marietta College and ends with a graduation ceremony Thursday evening. The annual summer camp is in collaboration with the Ohio State University Extension.

The camp has fifth-through-seventh grade participants from all across the state being immersed in science all day and evening, spending the night in the college dorms to start again each morning.

“There are a lot of fun activities and what we hope they get out of it is a better understanding of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) careers, knowing the reason why things fly and why aerospace jobs are needed,” said Camp Director Travis West. “All the construction projects focus on Newton’s laws of physics so they’re learning all the time.”

As students used brightly colored tissue paper to construct hot air balloons on Tuesday, even the mistakes were a learning opportunity.

“The design and the design flaws are both important,” said West. “It will show them why some hot air balloons might not fly the same as others.”

Along with the hot air balloon construction and launch, campers will have multiple visits to the college planetarium, see a chemistry magic show and build and launch model and bottle rockets.

The highlight for many, though, may be today’s planned presentation on the principles of flight by Bill Crell and Bill Ahonen, from the NASA Glenn Research Center. Along with meeting the men, the students will get to try on a space suit, said West.

“I personally kind of want to be an astronaut,” said Warren Middle School seventh-grader David Berga, 12. “I want to see the planets and the stars.”

Burgardt said that part of the space camp excites her as well.

“I really like space and that there might be other things living out there,” she said. “I’ll probably ask (the NASA speakers) if they know about any other life forms.”