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Saugus signatures in space

Education: High school students sign poster that will fly in one of the last manned shuttles

Posted: May 29, 2010 12:36 a.m.
Updated: May 29, 2010 6:30 a.m.
 

NASA's Space Shuttle program is running out of fuel, with just two more manned shuttles scheduled to take flight before the program is indefinitely grounded.

That's why Tony Hernando, a purchasing manager for Lockheed Martin and a Saugus parent, decided to bring the Student Signatures in Space program to Saugus High School. Local students will have until the end of the school year to sign off on the second-to-last shuttle mission, leaving Sept. 16.

In other words, students' signatures will spend some time in space.

Though the program is typically geared toward elementary and middle schools, Hernando decided to contact Bill Bolde, principal of Saugus High. Saugus became the first local high school to participate.

He sent Bolde an e-mail, and "the next thing you know, they took the bull by the horns and said they wanted to participate," said Hernando, a 31-year veteran at Lockheed Martin.

Bolde was excited about the idea.

"When I was a young boy, I grew up with the Apollo program," he said. "I wanted to be an astronaut. ... I would like to see more kids have that dream."

Lockheed Martin founded the program in 1997 to get kids excited about science and space.

"There is a cry in the business world for more engineers," said Herando, whose daughter Danielle is a junior at Saugus. "Young people are not gravitating toward the engineering world."

Bill Van Duzee, the chair of the high school's science department, was also enthusiastic.

He said that most science teachers are incorporating mini lessons into their classes to talk about the space program. He said that the kids were all really excited and had a lot of questions.

The end of the year is always packed, but even classes that had nothing to do with space made some time for the program. Krista Botton's biology class has been covering a lesson on plants. They set aside the potting soil last Thursday and set their sights a bit higher for a moment.

Her students all signed the poster and seemed excited about the space-bound project.

As the kids in Van Duzee's class started lab work, the teacher pulled out a set of old, yellowing photographs of scientists working on aerospace projects. He showed them to Hernando, and the two reminisced about how space had captured their imaginations.

When the poster containing the student signatures returns to Earth, Principal Bolde plans to frame it and display it, along with a photo of the crew who took it up, in the main office.

As for the kids, signing the poster had an obvious draw.

"It was really interesting to think," junior Brianna Coontz said, "just your name, in a shuttle, up in space."

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