Fourteen Cub Scouts in Pack 1280, based in Potomac, Maryland, (http://cubscoutpack1280.org/) discovered the wonders of space exploration, enjoyed a special behind-the-scenes tour of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, and earned their “Out of This World” Nova Award.
Scouts followed two tracks to achieve their Nova Award. Some began at Camp Goshen last summer, while others began at the Pack’s Fall campout. At the campout, Scouts participated in an interactive activity where each of them took on the roles of various celestial bodies to demonstrate the differences between rotation and revolution/orbit. Then, after this dizzying bit of engaged learning, the entire pack was invited to attend a star party to look for constellations and gaze through the telescope of NOVA coordinator Dan Tobocman.
“Unfortunately, because there is so much light pollution in the region, during the viewing party Scouts had a tough time picking out constellations. However, we had a great view of craters on the moon, four of Jupiter’s moons and the rings of Saturn,” Tobocman shared.
Tobocman then arranged for Jonn Van Eepoel, an aerospace engineer at NASA Goddard Flight Center, to meet the Scouts at Observatory Park in Gaithersburg to discuss gyroscopes and his work on the Osiris-Rex mission to collect samples from a near-Earth asteroid. Scouts also shared their Mars rover or Moon base models and discussed the research on the wobble of the Earth that was conducted at Observatory Park starting over 100 years ago. This research still plays a role in the GPS in our smartphones today.
Van Eepoel, who has a Master’s degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was so impressed with the questions that the Scouts posed to him that he reached out to invite the group to visit him at NASA Goddard over winter break for a special behind-the-scenes tour!
The Scouts eagerly accepted the invitation and arrived on campus the morning of December 27th. After gathering their badges and passing through security, Scouts observed the largest Class 10,000 clean room in the world, learned about the upcoming Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope, saw a giant vacuum chamber, and talked with one of Van Eepoel’s colleagues about Solar radiation. At the end of the behind-the-scenes tour, Scouts made their way to the visitor’s center and outdoor rocket garden.
Best of all, participating in the NOVA and taking the special behind-the-scenes tour planted seeds of curiosity in our Scouts regarding space science and space exploration!
Learn more about Pack 1280 at: https://cubscoutpack1280.org
Learn more about Nova Awards at: https://www.scouting.org/stem-nova-awards/awards/cub-scout/
Learn more about NASA Goddard Space Flight Center at: https://www.nasa.gov/goddard