BENGALURU: Nine students from Bengaluru were shortlisted for a two-week leadership programme at the US Space and Rocket Centre (USSRC). The teenagers met scientists, engineers, former astronauts and received first-hand professional expoaure from National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), which they say, changed their perspectives about engineering and medicine. They were among 23 teenagers who were selected from India for the Honeywell Leadership Challenge Academy (HLCA) that took place from February 24 to March 9 this year.
Kartika Thanigainathan, a 17-year-old from Sri Chaitanya PU College, says her outlook on medicine has changed after she witnessed how space medicine needed for astronauts are different from regular medical care “I realised that medical care required by astronauts is very critical as they go to another world altogether. They go through survival training, prepare themselves for emergencies and learn about precision air bearing floor where they have to move large objects in space and might get seriously hurt. I found this niche, challenging and want to pursue it,” she says.
During their one-week stay at US, the students participated in various interactive and experiential sessions about rocket designing, coding, building and testing . Seventeen-year-old Vishnu Das of BGS National Public School, says, “The experience was enthralling as it was close to a real-life space mission. I got to interact with the scientists of NASA and to host presentations. We met Robert Hood Gibson, an astronaut who has captured some of the earliest photographs of space.”
Mrudang Patel from Narayana PU College, says, “I was trained like an astronaut and I could confidently operate shuttle missions and rocket launch simulators. During an aviation simulation challenge, I flew a plane with a joystick. It was life changing.” His school mate Ruhi Narayan shares her free fall experience. “It was exactly like how you feel weightless in a zero-gravity terrain in space. We sat inside a model spaceship, launched it and brought it back safely,” she says.
The students between the age group of 16 and 18 years had to take a test that included questions about their vision and interest in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM). Scholarships were granted after a review process based on their academic achievement.