Reaching For The Moon: Students Compete In India

(SIOUX CITY, IA) - Four Siouxland science students returned home Tuesday after spending a week in India at an international aerospace competition.

The four students competed in Houston first at the Regional Space Settlement Design Competition last March. They did so well, they were handpicked to travel to India and compete on the international level. The four of them joined forces with other students from the U.S., India, Pakistan and Taiwan. "We met so many great people and it was really challenging to work with the different languages that we all speak and the different cultures that we all come from," said Merrill Brady, a senior at East High School. In teams of 40, they put their young minds together to create one proposal, designing a human settlement that would orbit the moon. It's an overwhelming task for most high school students anywhere. "It's amazing to see how it's so broken up and so large and all of a sudden to have this one unified project at the end," Alta-Aurelia senior, Joe Napierala. "The motivation of the students was astounding. How much they're like us still and what they enjoy was really fantastic," said Betsy Ehmcke, an East High senior. "This is a picture I took in the early afternoon," said Ehmcke showing her phone's camera roll. "Everyone had split into their departments and they're working separately. Then, I took another picture about 10 minutes before the proposal was due," she said as the second picture showed students standing and some sleeping on the floor. The competition lasted 18 hours total. You can only imagine how long it took just to get just one part finished. Jim Christensen is the man behind it all. He works for Northwest AEA, Area Education Agency, and is part of the Aerospace Education Competitions. He invited the students to start competing in the U.S. and then picked the four to be his first Iowa group to go to India. "It was kind of special to be one of the first ones to do it," said Jason Schmitt, a senior at Sergeant Bluff-Luton High School. "I couldn't have asked for a better opportunity out of high school to travel across the other side of the world and get to work with different people," said Napierala. "It was a mess, but it was a beautiful mess. It was perfect. It was so fun," said Brady.
The trip cost about $2,000 for each student. Three of them raised money through fundraisers and business sponsors, while the fourth paid for half of it himself.
Atla-Aurelia High School Science teacher, Will Dible, joined the students on the trip. He recalled a funny incident the group witnessed while they were sight seeing around the Taj Mahal.
"A woman walking with her ice cream had it held out and what she didn't know if you hold out your ice cream, that's an invitation for the monkeys to come after you. So this monkey slowly walks up. We all turn our heads and then just kind of wait for a little bit. Then, all of a sudden, just pops up and grabbed her ice cream. She screamed. Her boyfriend's throwing ice cream at the monkeys. It's obviously very happy because they've won and it took away with the ice cream," said Dible.