4-H youth take the commander’s seat on space missions

Urbana, Ill. -- An interdisciplinary collaboration between Illinois 4-H and the Laboratory for Advanced Space Systems at Illinois (LASSI) makes it possible for middle and high school STEM students to participate in a real satellite program and see their experiments launched into space.

“With the accumulated experience of 60 years, availability of miniaturized technology, and readily available launch opportunities to low earth orbit, it is now possible for students to define, develop, and operate a space mission,” says Keith Jacobs, University of Illinois Extension 4-H youth development specialist.

Throughout the development and implementation of this program, Illinois 4-H and LASSI will work with the 4-H Mission Command Team to develop mission-specific curriculum that align with state and national STEM/CS standards. Participating youth will design curriculum and activities that will enable middle and high school aged youth from around the state to design and carry out satellite-based missions in space.

The Mission Command Team will pilot the program before a further statewide launch. Members for 2021-2022 include Dina Hashash of Champaign County, Benjamin Suckow of Macon County, Michelle Wang of Jackson County, and Dhruv Rebba of McLean County.

While the learning will take place within homes, real space missions are being designed.

“Team members go through the curriculum, build a flight experiment, and bring their completed payload to LASSI,” says Jacobs. “Members will then participate in functional and environmental testing with the satellite bus.”

The satellite is then delivered to the launch provider to await its launch. After launch, students are given access via the internet to the LASSI mission operations center allowing youth to interact with the satellite from home, providing a rich satellite operations experience for participating youth.

The goal is to expand this opportunity into a statewide satellite operations experience in the coming year.

About Illinois 4-H: Illinois 4-H is the flagship youth development program of University of Illinois Extension and administered through the College of Agriculture, Consumer, and Environmental Sciences. 4-H grows true leaders, youth who are empowered for life today and prepared for a career tomorrow. The hands-on approach in 4-H gives young people guidance, tools, and encouragement, and then puts them in the driver’s seat to make great things happen. Independent research confirms the unparalleled impact of the 4-H experience, demonstrating that young people are four times more likely to contribute to their communities; two times more likely to make healthier choices; two times more likely to be civically active; and two times more likely to participate in STEM programs. 

About Extension:  Illinois Extension leads public outreach for University of Illinois by translating research into action plans that allow Illinois families, businesses, and community leaders to solve problems, make informed decisions, and adapt to changes and opportunities. 

Source: Keith Jacobs, 4-H Youth Development Extension Specialist, kjaco4@illinois.edu

Writer:  Carissa Nelson, Media Communications Manager, 4-H State Office, carissa7@illinois.edu