Gardnerville teacher grateful for NASA experience

She never had the money to do it as a kid, but the Gardnerville teacher’s dream came true this summer when she went on a scholarship from Honeywell.

“When I found out about it, I did a cartwheel in my living room I was so excited,” Badalucco, 23, said.

Badalucco, a sixth-grade teacher at C.C. Meneley Elementary School, attended the camp from June 28 to July 2, one of . 280 teachers from around the world on Honeywell scholarships.

Activities included simulations of shuttle missions, being in a drowning helicopter, being lowered in a parachute, an egg drop, making bottle rockets out of 2-liter bottles and real rockets from a kit.

They learned ways to incorporate National Aeronautics and Space Administration experiences into teaching math, such as listening to air traffic controls to calculate the distance of how far planes were from each other and from their destination or calculating the distance to Mars and the speed you’d need be traveling to land.

They had competitions on thermal protection and experiments on toys and gravity.

Speakers included Homer Hickam, who wrote “Rocket Boys,” and Bill Buckbee, who worked at NASA during the Apollo missions.

“It’s something that I’ve wanted to do from when I was a kid and never had the money to do this,” Badalucco said. “It’s really a dream come true.”

She’s excited to bring what she’s learned back to the classroom.

“I’ve been teaching for two years and have an idea of what my kids can do,” she said. “Now I have so many ideas of what I can teach them next year. (This was) probably one of the most amazing experiences I’ve ever had.”

Badalucco said her students will be like to see her jump suit and hopes to get them excited about space travel. She plans to tell her students about the Ares spacecraft she learned about firsthand from NASA employees.

The space agency planning to take Ares to the moon and on to Mars in 2020, about the time today’s fourth through eighth-graders will be ready to go.

“It’s something I hadn’t even heard of,” she said. “I hadn’t any idea they were in the process of building rockets to send people back up to the moon.”

Badalucco grew up in Las Vegas and always was interested in science. She has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Nevada, Reno and is working on a master’s degree in science education.

One of her favorite aspects of the trip was working with the other teachers from around the country and the world.

“In my group (there were) people from Romania, Scotland and Australia,” she said. “(I appreciated) just learning about how they teach. People who were engineers on airplanes before, they’ve done a whole array of jobs, getting to work with them, see their background knowledge and incorporate that into what we were doing — (it was) amazing.”

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