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PSU students take elementary explorers into space

April 28, 2011 12:00AM

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Journey to the Lost Planet, Galaxion

Hundreds of Lakeside Elementary School students soared into outer space Thursday, where they explored a lost planet, used robots to retrieve space rocks and searched for the lost crew of a previous mission. They did all these things without leaving the safety of their own school gym.

The Lakeside kids were able to take such an amazing journey thanks to Pittsburg State University technology education students who designed and built a unique educational experience that filled the Lakeside School gymnasium, according to Mike Neden, an associate professor in the Department of Technology and Workforce Learning.

This annual project, Neden said, gives the PSU students experience they'll use in the classroom, especially for those on track to become technology teachers.

"This gives our students a chance to practice new and interesting ways of teaching important concepts to school children," Neden said. "It also helps them to learn about building displays that illustrate those concepts."

Neden said the PSU students worked with teachers at Lakeside and presented the introductory material to the Lakeside students earlier in the semester. Thursday's event was the culmination of a semester of hard work and long hours of preparation.

Neden said "Journey to the Lost Planet, Galaxion" was based on the following scenario: As Earth's population has grown and the planet's resources have been depleted, scientists and astronomers have begun searching space for a planet with a similar environment for humans to live. They have discovered a long-lost planet, Galaxion, that they believe might be habitable for humans. The scientists assembled an elite crew of astronauts to explore the planet, but they have lost contact with the brave crew.

Recently, NASA received a faint signal from Galaxion and the space adventurers at Lakeside have been recruited to travel to the planet to find the lost crew and determine whether the planet is habitable.

The Lakeside students began their mission with a trip at the speed of light on the Starship Gorillica (somewhere inside this high-tech wonder there was a golf cart). Once on the planet, the students moved move through pods where they had hands-on lessons on Navigation and Measurement, the Science of Rocketry, Energy and Power, Health and Wellness, Communication Systems, and Mechanical and Transportation Systems.

Neden said about a dozen PSU students supervised and taught the various activities with about a dozen more serving as support staff during the day.

"It is a huge undertaking," Neden said, "but the result is educational not only for the elementary school students, but also for the university students."

©2011 Pittsburg State University