Teamwork, Technology, and Astronaut Training

Sydney Slay hasn’t exactly walked where no girl has gone before, but after Space Academy this summer, she’s got a better idea of what a lunar visit might feel like.

A one-sixth gravity chair at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama gives participants in various Space Camp programs a taste of being on the moon and a multi-axis trainer simulates a spacecraft going into a tailspin as it enters the atmosphere.

(ABOVE: Space Academy is one of several programs offered at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center. Courtesy photo)

“My favorite parts of Space Academy were the mission simulations, because as a team, everyone was assigned a job, and we simulated an actual mission which allowed us to have the experience of what it is like working in space,” Sydney said.

The 13-year-old eighth-grader is accustomed to teamwork at The Hockaday School, where she has attended since prekindergarten. This will be her third year competing with the middle school’s team in the FIRST Lego League Robotics competition. Lego and the organization FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) partner in the league to promote interest in science and technology.

Sydney, who also likes playing the piano and volunteering with the National Charity League and the Rotary Club of Dallas-Uptown, said she likes robotics because it allows her to use and hone her engineering, programming, and presentation skills.

“When I heard the 2018-2019 theme for the First Lego League competition was going to be space, I knew it was the perfect time for me to attend Space Camp,” she said. “My coaches Mrs. Laura Baker and Mrs. Lisa Dwinal have not only been amazing mentors but also a huge influence in my life and my love for robotics, space, and engineering.”

Space Academy is one of several camps the center offers, using astronaut training experiences to encourage and provide STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education. Students sleep in quarters designed to resemble the International Space Station and train in simulators similar to those used by NASA.

“I feel I have not only learned lots of information about space but also about our country’s history with space exploration,” Sydney said.”

“It is a great way to learn team building skills, what life is like in space, how people perform jobs pertaining to space, and about the study of space itself.”

William Taylor

William Taylor, editor of Park Cities People and Preston Hollow People, shares a name and a birthday with his dad and a love for community journalism with his colleagues at People Newspapers. He joined the staff in 2016 after more than 25 years working for daily newspapers in such places as Alexandria, Louisiana; Baton Rouge; McKinney; San Angelo; and Sherman, though not in anywhere near that order. A city manager once told him that “city government is the best government” because of its potential to improve the lives of its residents. William still enjoys covering municipal government and many other topics. Follow him on Twitter @Seminarydropout. He apologizes in advance to the Joneses for any angry Tweets that might slip out about the Dallas Cowboys during the NFL season. You also can reach him at For the latest news, click here to sign up for our newsletter.

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