Every year, a few dozen specially-chosen educators get to go to space. Okay, well, space camp. Baltimore Fishbowl caught up with Tamirate Ajkig, a science teacher at Digital Harbor High School who was one of the special few who got to spend a week at Honeywell Educators @ Space Academy at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama.
What was a typical day like?
The days were brutal! We’d wake up at 6am and might not get finished until 8pm. After a quick eat-and-run breakfast, we had classroom activities, simulations, team-building exercises, tours, and guest lecturers. We learned about everything from rocketry to robots to designing curricula.
Was it what you expected?
To be honest, I thought it was going to be a bunch of physicists teaching us things in classrooms. I expected something much more mundane and paperworky. But it wasn’t like that at all.
What was the coolest thing you learned?
Really just seeing what level of detail goes into an actual mission launch, the level of detail, how everything is scripted from start to finish. Everyone plays a key role — you could have one person whose sole responsibility is to announce something at one particular time. Or a person who repairs one particular component. Even if at the start you really wanted to fly the shuttle but instead you were in charge of operation command, you eventually realized that you’ve got a lot of responsibility, too. Everyone came away with respect for the big and small roles.
Did you get to fly the shuttle?
No — I was the one barking commands! We actually ended up being the winning team.
Congratulations! Doing all these high-pressure activities with people you’d just met that week must’ve been intense.
You know, it taught me that you really can create a team atmosphere very quickly. We had people from something like 27 countries coming together in a relatively short period of time. Generally speaking, in education you’ll find your particular niche, and maybe you work with your colleagues in your department, but this kind of interaction is at a minimum. This was a really nice reminder that you can create a team atmosphere with any group.
What do you think will stick with you?
It was such a great smorgasbord of people. I think we all needed a jolt of energy or passion, and this was exactly that — a shot in the arm of passion for a lot of educators who might’ve otherwise burned out.