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Sending young girls to space camp

By Kathy Hanks

The Hutchinson News

With aircraft taking off and landing at Stearman Field on a recent evening, a group gathered with a common goal -- to encourage some young girls to a future in space.

Sponsored by the Women in Aviation Air Capital City Chapter, the annual event raised $5,350, which will pay for 30 low-income girls to attend the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center.

This will be the third year for Children First, a Wichita based nonprofit organization to take the girls to the Hutchinson camp. Funds were raised by like-minded women, some who experienced space camp when they were younger.

Space camp served Robin Laws well.

"It would never have occurred to me that I could be a pilot because I didn't know a woman pilot," said Laws, who helped begin the Wichita chapter of Women in Aviation. Laws explained that attending space camp led her to go on to become a pilot, graduating from Kansas State University, Salina. While at space camp, she was influenced by a counselor who was a pilot.

For the girls who will be attending the special camp on July 25, this is part of a program -- Future Women in ASTEM (aviation, science, technology, engineering and math).

The girls meet twice a month with Amber Beck and Kathleen Webb, with Children First. Recent meetings have included a visit to Sedgwick County Crime Lab, as well as a visit to Exploration Place, where they met with a marine biologist to learn what that career entails and then they learned how to dissect sharks.

"Twice a month we do something fun," Webb said. "The space camp is an important piece of the program."

The camp includes an overnight stay in the Discovery Classroom of the Cosmosphere. They sleep among the exhibits and imagine being aboard the International Space Station, said Dianne Blick, director of development.

A highlight for the girls has been the simulators, said Beck.

"I am not sure what they'll do this year," Beck said. "Last year we experienced 4-G force. You feel it front to back and you have to look straight on, because if you look to the side, you get dizzy. They get to do everything from Dr. Goddard's Lab and the Imax show."

It cost $180 per girl to attend the camp. Webb is thrilled at the outcome of the fundraising event, which included a $1,000 donation from Flight Safety and $540 from the Kansas Commission on Aerospace Education.

(c)2014 The Hutchinson News