AHU’s Summer Science Camp Takes Kids to the Moon and Back

News Lisa Marie Esser

Have you ever imagined yourself traveling through the stars to walk along the craggy face of the moon? This year, the participants at AdventHealth University’s (AHU) Summer Science Camp had a chance to virtually experience that for themselves.

The 4th annual summer camp brought another week of learning and exploring for middle-school students of the Boys and Girls Club of Central Florida. This year’s event took place near the same date as an important milestone in science history – the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing on July 20th, 2019.

From June 24th – June 28th, the children participated in a series of activities meant to interest them in the field of STEM education through presentations, interactive simulations, and demonstrations. On Tuesday, June 25th, AHU organized a special event in partnership with NASA, led by NASA-sponsored physician, Esther Beltran, M.D, PhD, chief scientist at the Florida Space Institute at University of Central Florida (UCF). This activity simulated the famous Apollo moon missions, including 6 different landing sites.

Esther Beltran teaching the science campers.
Dr. Esther Beltran lead the science campers through a virtual reality simulation of the Apollo moon landing. Photo credit: Jadiel Alfonso.

The VR lunar guide, created by NASA scientists and based on past expeditions including Apollo 11, showcased real-life space travel challenges and solutions for the young astronauts. The kids utilized VR goggles to explore a visual simulation of what the Apollo mission astronauts may have seen.

Science campers using virtual reality headsets.
Summer science campers explore a virtual reality recreation of the Apollo moon landing site. Photo credit: Jadiel Alfonso

Dr. Beltran is passionate about these outreach opportunities. “I’m doing this because I wish I could have done something like this as a kid,” she said, “You give them a spark and they take off.” She also talked about the importance of showing students the many inter-professional collaborations that happen in the STEM field. As a child she was interested in space and once she got older, she realized there were ways to combine her love for space science with her medical field background.

Kendra VanHouten, director of community engagement at AHU, said, "It was inspiring to watch the excitement when the campers virtually landed on the moon...[and] all the interesting ways science impacts everyday life. We are grateful to all of our partners, sponsors, and volunteers for their dedication to this camp and these students."

AHU strives to find ways in which health care and medicine can be brought together with other disciplines to advance the practice of whole-person care. By instilling intrigue and interest in STEM, young people can begin to imagine unique, exciting futures for themselves.

This work was jointly supported by the NASA Planetary Science Division, under the Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute Cooperative Agreement (NNA17BF68A).