Wallingford schools partner with Australia to launch space science program

WALLINGFORD — A new science center, focused on innovation and design, is set to open at Fritz Elementary School with the help of an Australian partnership.

The school system will partner with the Victorian Space Science Education Center to create a center for students to build skills in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Students in all grades and all schools will have the opportunity to explore the center.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity for students to be able to appreciate the connection of science,” Superintendent of Schools Salvatore Menzo said.

During a trip to Australia with students this summer, Menzo met with the ministry of education in Victoria to discuss a possible partnership. The VSSEC center provides programs for students and teachers that include hands-on projects in chemistry, bioscience, and astronomy. Projects range from Mars mission— in which students communicate through mission control and wear spacesuits to collect rock and soil samples-—to conducting chemical analysis for research studies. 

“We really saw that there was a great connection that we can make with our students,” Menzo said.

The Center for Innovation and Design will open in a wing of the elementary school. It is scheduled to be completed in January 2021. Students will develop technical skills in coding, robotics, computational and algorithmic thinking. 

Fritz Principal Eric Carbone said the top level of the center has been repainted and had a new floor installed. Orange color schemes were added to reflect the Mars experience. The ceiling was painted black to depict outer space.

“The projects going really well,” Carbone said. “A lot of time and effort has gone into it.”

To launch the program, the school will host a breakfast Tuesdayfrom 8:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. Representatives from the Victorian Space Science Education Center will attend and speak about the partnership.

“It’s an opportunity for people in the community to see the space and get a sense of how it is being used,” Carbone said.

When completed in 2021, the center will be equipped with a virtual launching space, a state-of-the-art coding environment and a space for the robotics team, Menzo said.

Through the Mars environment program, students will be able to use coding and a control panel that replicates equipment used by the National Aeronautics Space Administration. 

Administrators will work with businesses to identify careers related to skills learned at the center.

“It will build on the initiative of Wallingford being a STEM town,” Carbone said. “It just adds to the work being done.”

Twitter: @JenieceRoman


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