Local students attend SDSU aerospace camp

Local students attend SDSU aerospace camp Building model planes and taking hot air balloon rides may not seem like typical summer camp activities.

For 26 high school students from South Dakota and Nebraska, however, these were just a couple of samples of what this year's Aerospace Career and Education Camp, or ACE Camp, had to offer.

Student participants at this year's camp included Fielding Russell IV, Meckling; and Alex Nielsen, Wakonda.

The camp, hosted by South Dakota State University in Brookings, took place July 11-15.

"Not only is ACE Camp a lot of fun, the students get to see what's out there as far as careers," camp coordinator Lori Sullivan said.

Campers learned about several aspects of aviation during the week-from planes and their structures to a demonstration on how the human eye sees three-dimensionally, according to Sullivan.

Among other activities, the week included trips to Watertown, Sioux Falls and Tea.

In Watertown, students visited Lake Area Technical Institute, where they toured an engine shop and climbed in and on several aircraft.

Students took to the air in Sioux Falls, where they took tethered hot air balloon rides and visited Aerostar International, Inc., a company which manufactures both hot and cold air balloons, such as the ones used in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Students visited the South Dakota Air National Guard, where they learned about avionics and weapons and engines and their mechanics, as well as spent time in a flight-simulator.

A visit to an air traffic control tower in Sioux Falls gave students a perspective of aviation outside of the planes.

"We got to see the Air National Guard F-16s take off," said Sullivan.

Also in Sioux Falls, students visited the Sioux Valley Hospital and University Medical Center air ambulance as well as the Washington Pavilion's Kirby Science Discovery Center. According to Sullivan, the students visited the Experimental Aircraft Association in Tea as well.

While campers took part in tours, classes and demonstrations, hands-on activities remained a vital part of the week.

"The students got into groups and made their own Styrofoam planes," Sullivan said. In addition to planes, she said campers built and flew their own model rockets.

At Big Sioux Aviation in Brookings, campers learned about aerodynamics, mechanics and weather. They had the chance to fly one-on-one with a flight instructor in a Cessna as well, Sullivan said.

Campers took part in several activities on the SDSU campus. Along with a campus tour, students received a lesson in astronomy from SDSU physics instructor Judy Vondruska.

"A lot of us found that extremely interesting," she said.

Students worked with the Global Positioning System as well, Sullivan said. Students hid objects around campus, mapped the GPS waypoints for those objects, and then switched GPS coordinates with their fellow campers. The students then determined the location of the objects from the given coordinates.

At the end of the camp, students received certificates in a graduation ceremony.

"It was a very full week," said Sullivan. "I think they (the students) all had fun."

For 12 years, the camp has served as a way to introduce high schoolers to aviation. Several ACE Camp graduates have gone on to pursue and obtain careers in aviation.

Prior to this year, ACE Camp has hosted 266 students since its inception in 1992, according to the ACE Camp Web site. The South Dakota Space Grant Consortium, a program funded by NASA, sponsors the camp.

Several other sponsors provide core funding to help make the camp possible, including: the South Dakota Department of Transportation Office of Aeronautics, the Department of Labor, Women Work!, Business Aviation Services, the South Dakota Aviation Association, the South Dakota Pilots Association, Kadrmas, Lee and Jackson, Inc. Engineers, Surveyors and Planners, and Yankton's regional airport.

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