Diamond Canyon wins honorable mention at the Aerospace Challenge
by LeeAnn Sharpe
NORTH VALLEY – Michele R. Jones, a fifth‑grade teacher at Diamond Canyon Elementary School in Anthem, is mighty proud of all of her 42 highflying students who participated, and especially the five who won an honorable mention in the Honeywell Fiesta Bowl Aerospace Challenge preliminary competition on Dec. 4. Presented by the Arizona Republic and featuring Microsoft Mission Control, the challenge gave students an opportunity to compete in teams of three to five to construct a "new" generation International Space station which promoted team‑building, communication, problem‑solving and critical decision‑making skills.
Jones said, "Many volunteers spoke of how impressed they were by all the teams' responses. They made a team patch and really presented themselves well. It's more about teamwork, cooperation and problem solving than science."
"I'm really happy and proud," Diamond Canyon fifth‑grader Isabella Haelen of the winning team said. "We had to design a space station. We had a huge activity room with a pool and work out rooms."
Describing their winning design, Haelen said, "Everyone had a computer and games in their quarters. For meals we designed a big food court with restaurants like Panda Express and others. And they would have a Safeway where they buy food and cook in their dorms. It was a pretty big space station."
Each team made both written and oral presentations of their model, as well as supporting materials with scientific explanations, to a panel of about 40 experts from Honeywell. The panel then chose the top three teams from each day to advance to the finals, held December 29 at the Challenger Space Center in Peoria. NASA astronauts were scheduled to be on hand at the finals to present the first place team and teacher with a VIP trip to the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Tex., to experience a behind‑the‑scenes look at the NASA facilities.
"We had some problems, but we figured it out as a team. We learned a little bit about science, but mostly we learned about working together," Haelen said.
When asked, do you see yourself going into space someday? Haelen said, "Maybe¼ Yeah it might actually happen!"
In its 8th year, the event brought together more than 600 fifth‑ through eighth‑graders from across Arizona to the competition, which invited students to design and build a model international space station to sustain a crew of 100 for two years. Some of the topics researched included satellite development and maintenance, provisions for gravity, shielding, meeting social and religious needs, food and entertainment, and living conditions.
Diamond Canyon students Alex Dalessio, Samantha Dalessio, Baylee Nichols, Isabella Haelen, and Andi Leusler, known as the "Hoopsters" team, earned an honorable mention at the December 4 competition, where three teams statewide were selected for the finals and three teams were recognized for honorable mentions.
"The judges at ASU asked us questions and we had to explain all of our design," said Haelen.
In Deer Valley Unified School District, two schools participated in the competition. Twelve students from Shannon Harshman's Gavilan Peak School fifth through seventh grade classes also participated.
Harshman commented about Diamond Canyon's win "They won best team spirit. And it was their first time in competition. It's quite an accomplishment, and we're really proud of them."
"My students are excited about getting ready for next year."