This week is National Aerospace Week. So what are you folks doing to celebrate? Our company decided giving a presentation to middle school students that might raise their interest in satellites would be a good idea (seeing as how my company does a lot of work in the space field). I don't think our management folks really understood what they were signing up to do. Instead of us doing a simple hour long presentation as originally envisioned, it wound up being me and one other person I work with dedicating two full days to do the presentation for the 8th grade science classes of a local school (all 8 science classes). Interesting school. Previously it was "failed" middle school that was closed due to poor performance on standardized tests. So it was reincarnated as a charter school with a space theme. Right next to the school, they have a discovery center that technically belongs to the entire school district, but has a very close relationship with the middle school since it ties into the theme of the charter school. The discovery center has an STK (Satellite Took Kit) lab using software and computers donated by AGI. In one of the other rooms they're building a Mars landscape and have a bunch of robotic rovers made by Lego and donated by Honeywell. The kids can learn to program their rovers to do various things on the Mars landscape. Very cool. My coworker did an explanation of orbital elements and had an STK based lab where they modified the different elements and could see what the effect was on the satellite orbits. They were very wowed by STK and really enjoyed the class. I did a class on how we control satellites using some basic physics principles. I covered angular momentum, moment of inertia, with some nice demos and explained and had a couple demos on how those principles could be applied to control the rotation of satellites, plus talked a little about precession maneuvers (since part of the class was spinning a tire and let students feel how it felt to try change the angle of the tire, the precession maneuvers were kind of a natural follow-on to explain exactly why the tire reacted the way it did). One teacher's science class did the STK lab one day, then the attitude control class the next, while the other science teacher's class did the attitude control one day, then the STK lab the next, so we taught 4 classes each day for 2 days. Very fun. Also very tiring. I teach orbital mechanics classes to adults that wind up being a little over 6 hours of teaching per day several days in a row. I was surprised to be a lot more tired after teaching 2 four hour days. The kids are little more challenging than adults since it's harder to keep the entire class's attention, plus it's actually hard to teach the same material over and over than it is to keep teaching new material each hour. Very worthwhile, too. To build the classes, I took the simplest stuff from the adult classes I teach, so it was interesting to get the perspective of a completely different audience. I think some of that will help make the way I run the demos for my adult classes better. And very worthwhile for the discovery center. The whole complex - the charter school and the discovery center - are new, so the two people running the STK lab are still figuring out how to use STK and how to use the simulations to teach something actually relevant. Very fun project. I hope we do something like this again.