Jackson Wilfert is keeping his eyes—and his career hopes—focused upward. The Marcos de Niza High School ninth grader is among 254 students from around the world who have just returned from the weeklong Honeywell Leadership Challenge Academy at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Ala.
The unique, week-long program gives children of Honeywell employees a chance to develop their leadership skills through technology- and science-oriented workshops, lectures and team exercises that include simulated astronaut training that brings their studies to life.
“We were able to do simulated missions; I was in ground control, and we had other students in a separate room that was designed to look like the inside of a space shuttle,”Jackson said. “Everybody had the opportunity to be a leader at some point during the camp.”
Developed in partnership with the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, the program is designed to encourage high school students to pursue space-related careers.
During the course of the program, students meet with scientists, engineers, and former astronauts to reinforce core leadership competencies and provide them with first-hand professional experiences.
Students engage in interactive challenges such as designing, building, and testing their own rockets, bridge structures and DNA extraction experiments.
“My favorite part was the (human) centrifuge, which spins around putting a certain amount of Gs on your body,” said Jackson, who is currently taking honors chemistry/physics in his freshman year.
The centrifuge is a device that spins the person around, forcing a larger amount of acceleration on their body than normally experienced by the earth’s gravity.
“We also got to test our model rocket in a wind tunnel, so we could see how much wind pressure was acting on the rocket as the wind rushed by,” he said. “Then, we were able to compare it to other teams’ rockets and how much drive they had.”
Jackson said his experience has added to his interest in aerospace engineering, and he plans on majoring in a related subject in college. All students who participated in the camp earned one college credit of intro to space and science at the University of Alabama in Huntsville.
Since 2010, Honeywell and the U.S. Space & Rocket Center have awarded more than 630 scholarships to students after rigorous application and review processes based on their academic achievement and community involvement.