Nine high school students from the North and West suburbs who attended a weeklong camp at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Ala., say it helped teach them leadership skills and how to work together with people from around the world.
The camp also deepened their interest in pursuing careers in science.
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"By the first day, we were already a family," Sabrina Poulsen of Wheeling, a student at Buffalo Grove High School, said of the Honeywell Leadership Challenge Academy, held in February and March. The camp's two sessions hosted 304 students from 38 countries.
HLCA uses interactive technology, science-oriented workshops and team exercises to teach children of Honeywell employees between the ages of 16 and 18 leadership skills in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).
Activities are delivered in fun and innovative ways that bring STEM studies to life. During the program, the students meet scientists, engineers and former astronauts who reinforce core leadership competencies and share their firsthand professional experiences.
Students engage in team-building challenges such as designing, building and testing their own rockets; participating in simulated astronaut training, shuttle missions and a moon walk; and conducting DNA extraction experiments on fruit.
"It was very cool to see the Saturn V rocket and meet a real astronaut," said Poulsen, who is considering a career in astrophysics. "The activities were amazing, and the people I did them with made the whole experience even more enjoyable."
Kiara Zurow of Geneva said her favorite part was "not only making lifelong friends, but also using the flight and space shuttle mission simulators."
A student at Geneva High School, Zurow said she plans to study science or engineering in college.
"The activities I enjoyed most were flying a jet simulator and riding the zip line down the street from the dorms," said Ryan Hunt of Des Plaines, a student at Elk Grove High School. "Most of the exercises centered on teamwork, which will help me in my college and work experiences. I had a great time meeting those from other cultures, and continuing our contact through social media."
Nikitas Adamopoulos of Gurnee said he especially valued getting hands-on experience that strengthened his knowledge of STEM.
"One thing that stood out for me was having to design and test a thermal heat shield similar to the ones on the plates on the rocket ships for re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere," said Adamopoulos, a student at Warren Township High School who plans to pursue a career in engineering. "It also gave me a unique cultural experience by working as a team with a diverse group of students, from all over the world."
"I learned a lot that I can take with me in the future to help me in my future career," said Thomas Rossi of Elburn, a student at Aurora Central Catholic High School. "I learned leadership skills and also how to depend on others in a group."
He said another huge part of the experience was learning to communicate with people coming from all around the world who had varying degrees of fluency in English.
Megan Kalafut of Lake Zurich said she especially appreciated the breadth and depth of learning involved.
"This experience will help me in the future because of the improvement in my leadership skills and the ability to relate to people using various communication styles," said Kalafut, a student at Lake Zurich High School. "In the future, when confronted with a leadership challenge, I will be better prepared to succeed. I was recognized for my improvement in communication during the week with the communication award from my team."
Guest speakers spoke about careers in STEM, said Megan, who enjoys mathematics, science and computer science classes. "I gained a lot of knowledge about possible future careers."
Zoey Krawczyk of Rolling Meadows said she found individuals from all around the world were just like her.
"We all share a passion of science, math, engineering, etc., and we all strive toward being the leaders who make the future a better place," said Krawczyk, who would like to be a forensic chemist. "We developed these close relationships while working together to complete tasks like building a rocket to protect an egg when launched or flying simulation airplanes together to complete a mission dealing with keeping the president safe."
The experience also make her upbeat about the future, she said.
"This generation has the brains and creativity to positively impact the world and make a lasting difference."
Other Chicago area students who attended included Rohit Anumakonda of Naperville, a student at Naperville North High School, and Angela Green of Glen Ellyn, a student at Glenbard West High School.
The Honeywell Leadership Challenge Academy is part of Honeywell Hometown Solutions, the company's corporate citizenship initiative.
"Our goal is to continue to develop a new generation of leaders, engineers and scientists who can address the challenges of tomorrow," said Tom Buckmaster, president of Honeywell Hometown Solutions.
For information about the program, visit leadership.honeywell.com.