Local students join the learning experience at Purdue Space Day

WEST LAFAYETTE – On Saturday, October 29th, Purdue University hosted an event titled Purdue Space Day (PSD). 

Organized by university students, PSD is a one-day educational outreach program that provides school students in grades 3-8 the opportunity to learn about STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) by participating in three age-appropriate activities with a space theme. The participants are divided into three separate age ranges: Grades 3-4, Grades 5-6, and Grades 7-8.  

Purdue Fall Space Day began twenty-five years ago on November 9, 1996, with just more than 120 school students in attendance and 40 Purdue students who ran the program.  Over the years, the event has grown to accommodate more than 800 participants and the 300+ university students who make the whole event possible. 

The volunteers act as role models and leaders for the participants so that they can inspire the next generation of Boilers.  Purdue Space Day became an independent student organization in 2007 and changed its name from Purdue Fall Space Day to Purdue Space Day.  To learn more about PSD, go to https://engineering.purdue.edu/PurdueSpaceDay.  

Jacob Burrus, WBIW Junior Reporting took notes during the event.

Jacob Burrus received the opportunity to speak to one of the volunteers who led a 5th-6th grade group called Saturn V.  All the 5th-6th grade groups were named after Mars Orbiters and Aerography.  Saturn V’s group leader was Bradly Kantor.  He is a sophomore at Purdue and is studying Mechanical Engineering.  He said that he enjoyed volunteering for PSD because he likes the experience, enjoys the kids, and gets free lunch.  

Saturn V Group Leader: Bradly Kantor. Photo by Jacob Burrus

Every year, PSD asks a past astronaut to come and speak to all the participants.  Past astronauts include Buzz Aldrin, John Blaha, Roy Bridges Jr., Mark Brown, John Casper, Andrew Feustel, Guy Gardner, Greg Harbaugh, Jose Hernandez, Gary Payton, Mark Polansky, Jerry Ross, Loren Shriver, Scott Tingle, Janice Voss, Charlie Walker, Don Williams, and David Wolf. 

PSD Astronaut: Mark Brown In front of the Neil Armstrong Building. Photo by Jacob Burrus

This year’s astronaut was Mark Brown.  Mr. Brown is a NASA astronaut who graduated from Purdue and then went on to become a USAF Colonel and a fighter pilot.  He flew a T-37, T-33, and a T-38.  He then went to graduate school and earned a master’s degree in astronautical engineering.  Soon after, he received a job at NASA as an engineer in 1981.  A few years later Mr. Brown became part of the astronaut class of 1984.  After he trained for space missions, he was sent off to the International Space Station. 

Saturn V Group with PSD Astronaut: Mark Brown. Photo by Jacob Burrus

To start PSD, the students arrive at their homerooms for attendance, then they go to Elliot Hall of Music (ELLT) for the astronaut speech.  After the students leave ELLT, they go to different Purdue classrooms and complete STEM-based and age-appropriate activities to simulate and learn about space missions.  The Saturn V’s group participated in 3 activities during the day.  First, they built a buggy for astronauts that had collected samples from Mars but didn’t have a way to get them off the mountain.  The samples were portrayed as marbles during this activity.  The students also made paper airplanes to simulate designing and navigating a shuttle to safely return to Earth.  Finally, they made foam rockets and learned where rockets originated from and how they operate.

If you have a student in 3rd-8th grade and you believe they would be interested in learning about space in creative and fun ways, then you should sign them up!  Registration opens on August 1, 2023, for next year’s PSD.  This event will take place on October 28, 2023.  Make sure to sign up by visiting the PSD web page I mentioned above and clicking “Register Here!”

Written By Jacob L. Burrus