St. Francis High School sophomore Lance Lemke spent his spring break in a space lab.
The Andover resident was one of 254 students that attended the 2012 Honeywell Leadership Challenge Academy.
The camp took place at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, Huntsville, Ala., for children of Honeywell employees a chance to build leadership skills and the opportunity to explore careers in sciences, technology, engineering and math.
In addition to team building activities with other campers, who came from 30 countries and 30 U.S. states, Lemke and the others got hands-on experience with engineering projects, emergency response, aerospace technology and careers.
Lemke won a scholarship to go during the second week of March.
“It was pretty fun,” Lemke said.
Working in small teams, students had to modify rocket model size to be able to use the wind tunnel at the University of Alabama, Huntsville, he said. Lemke’s father Gary is a Honeywell systems engineer.
His team’s rocket flew pretty high and the parachute opened as planned, Lemke said.
During his second day, Lemke and the others headed into the lab to extract DNA from strawberries and kiwi.
Doing the experiment was all right, but he made too harsh of detergent solution, Lemke said.
“I ended up splicing the DNA instead of extracting it,” he said.
He also helped build bridges, create a heat shield for a space craft and test it.
“The engineering stuff seems pretty fun, putting things together and being efficient with stuff,” Lemke said.
The campers were also spun in the centrifuge and shot up and dropped from a ride, like the Power Tower.
“It was fun, like any other ride,” Lemke said.
“Being in the centrifuge was boring. It’s not too exciting to feel three times your body rate.”
Just going in circles isn’t too fun, said mother Nancy Lemke.
At the space camp, the students also got to meet and work with some of the scientists, engineers and former astronauts.
They got to talk about some of the mirrors being created for the space telescopes, Lemke said.
The students were called into action for a disaster response exercise based around the 2010 tornado that hit Huntsville and damaged the mall, including a gas leak and roof collapse, Lemke said.
Lemke was assigned to be the search and rescue chief.
Surrounded by maps and store locations, Lemke was in charge of designing a rescue plan and dispatching research crews as well as coordinating emergency services.
He worked with a table of group members and they were able to bounce ideas off of each other, he said.
“It was kind of fun,” Lemke said.
There was a sense of urgency and every few minutes a news broadcast from the actual event was played, making it more realistic, he said.
Depending on what was on the broadcast, the strategy would have to change, Lemke said.
On another day, Lemke and the rest of his team went on a space mission.
As the mission control science officer, Lemke’s role was a earthbound scientist and he used a script to direct other members of the team.
Some of the kids were in the rocket simulator, he said.
He would have preferred to be in the simulator because the students actually did an experiment with chemicals in a cup that turned into a solid, Lemke said.
But Lemke did have fun in the jet simulator.
The mission was to move Air Force One from the Miami airport to another airport, Lemke said.
While some of the students flew escort planes, Lemke was assigned to take out ground targets, like ground bases and oil rigs.
“It was harder than a video game,” he said.
Most video games are made so everyone can use them. The simulator requires the user to learn its systems, Lemke said.
He is not sure if he hit any targets, but Lemke managed not to crash during the mission, he said.
But when he went back to base for more ammunition, Lemke said he did not stop his simulated plane soon enough and ended up in the river.
“I enjoyed (the simulator) and would do it again,” he said.
Lemke’s favorite part of camp was meeting new people.
“I mainly miss the people,” he said.
He got to meet people from all over the world, including England, Hungary and Ireland, said Lemke, who has add about 15 new friends to his Facebook account.
It was worth giving up his spring break for, he said.
While Lemke does not have any career plans yet, he is considering being a civil engineer or a welder.
Tammy Sakry is at email@example.com