ADRIAN — High school students in southeastern Michigan are expected to have an opportunity during a two-day program in January in Lenawee County to learn about the space industry, meet an astronaut and have a biology experiment selected for a future space mission.
The Michigan Aerospace Manufacturers Association is working with Higher Orbits to have the program on Jan. 13-14, potentially at PlaneWave Instruments in Adrian, Gavin Brown, executive director of MAMA, announced Saturday at an election campaign event for state Sen. Dale Zorn, R-Onsted, at PlaneWave. The program is designed to engage students in STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — education.
Zorn is running in the Nov. 8 election to represent the new 34th District in the Michigan House of Representatives. The district covers most of Lenawee County. Zorn cannot run again for the Senate due to term limits, but he has one more term available in the House. He is opposed by Democrat John Dahlgren of Clinton.
Higher Orbits is a nonprofit organization that hosts hands-on learning programs for high school students across the country. Part of the program is a contest between teams of students to have a biology experiment selected to be launched into space where an astronaut will conduct the experiment.
“It’s a two-day program designed for kids to use STEM education and to actually do a team-building exercise to demonstrate their understanding of launching a space vehicle into low-Earth orbit,” Brown said in an interview. “… It is to engage our youth and their passion for being part of the space program in a program where they can actually feel like they are doing something that is happening today with the launches that they see on TV.”
Low-Earth orbit is where the International Space Station and satellites such as SpaceX’s Starlink satellites are located.
“It is probably the highest growth area in the orbits around the Earth for the business of the placement of satellites,” Brown said.
There won’t be a limit on the number of students who can attend, and donations will be sought from area businesses to pay for the program, Brown said in a presentation to Zorn’s supporters.
MAMA promotes the manufacturing and engineering assets and workforce talent in Michigan to the space industry, Brown said in the interview, and this educational program is forward-looking.
“I like to say we’re not looking where the space industry is today, we’re looking at where it’s going and to engage those future technologies in our program so that those who are learning all about propulsion, engineering, aerodynamics, sensors — the kids of the future have opportunities here in Michigan so they don’t have to leave the state,” he said.
During his presentation to Zorn’s supporters, Brown said 90% of graduates from aerospace engineering programs in Michigan leave the state to find jobs.
Space industry technologies are not only about spacecraft, Brown said. Many modern technological conveniences are related to space-based technology, whether it is Global Positioning System satellites, communications or technology around the home.
There is also a race between the United States, China and Russia to develop future communications and quantum computing technologies, Brown said. He said that research and development work can be done in Michigan.