Montross Middle School is Out of this World

Montross Middle School is Out of this World
Posted on 04/24/2023

Twelve Montross Middle School students had an out of the world experience on April 21, 2023.  The students had been selected to participate in a chat with Astronaut Steve Bowen. The ARRIS (Amateur Radio on the International Space Station) program allows for radio contact between an astronaut aboard the International Space Station (ISS) and a local school.  Montross Middle School was one of nine schools selected in the United States for this unique opportunity.

Carole Alexander, Director of Testing, is an avid amateur radio operator and after Dr. Michael Perry’s approval, applied to the program and was “delighted” to have been selected. The school participated in the School Club Roundup, a program that introduced students to amateur radio, in the spring and fall. Working with the administration at Montross Middle School, students were asked to write a brief essay on what they ask an astronaut.    Based on those responses, twelve students representing sixth, seventh, and eighth grade were selected. Once the students were selected, they rehearsed with Ms. Alexander and perfected the radio jargon, especially, using the term “over” when they finished their question.

The ARISS amateur radio station was located in Greenbelt, Maryland. It is through this telebridge station that the connection to the International Space Station was made. The contact moderator at the Maryland station explained via a video how the transmission would work and that the connection would be made in a ten-minute period as the space station flies over the contact station.  Leading up to the contact moment, Ms. Alexander interviewed Mrs. Leah Segar, principal of Montross Middle School and Dr. Michael Perry, Superintendent. Both talked about how excited they were to be participating in the program and putting Montross Middle School on the map.  As the students awaited their turn, they studied their questions and watched the clock for the moment they would come forward.  Each student stated their name and question to NASA Astronaut, Capt. Stephen Bowen. Captain Bowen graciously answered each question, sometimes with a little humor. Students learned about bathing habits (no showers, just a sponge bath) to eating food. They learned important information about how to become an Astronaut and what subjects are important. A veteran of three spaceflights, Captain Brown has logged a total of 47 days in space, which included 47 hours in spacewalks.

The selected students were Brandon Armstrong, Tyrese Barber, Javin Branson, Jordan Danchak, Yandel Diaz, Kaiden Lomax, Lillian MacNamara, Yuridiana Mendez, Mekayla Smith, Emily Swann, William Townsend, and Levi Walker.  The students were able to ask twenty-three questions in their allotted time frame.  Congratulations to each of these students for their expertise and enthusiastic journey into this exciting new realm.  Westmoreland Public Schools thanks the Westmoreland Amateur Radio Club for all of their assistance in making this dream a reality for twelve excited young students.