Clear Falls sisters had chance to 'explore space' at special camp
Clear Falls High School students Erica Stephens and her sister Melina Stephens spent spring break with 238 kids from 26 countries.
The sisters were the only two Texans accepted to the 2011 Honeywell Leadership Challenge Academy in Huntsville, Ala., where they got to extract DNA from fruit, build model rockets, design a mock bridge, simulate flights, launch shuttles and spin in a centrifuge.
The camp's mission is to encourage students to consider a career in science, technology, engineering or math.
"We did a lot of different things at camp that helped give me a better idea of career options, but I'm not really sure what I want to be when I grow up," said Erica, 15. "I'm thinking it will be something in the science field."
The flight simulator helped Erica rule out the possibility of being a pilot.
"I wasn't very good at it," said Erica, recalling a crash landing or two. "But it was fun."
And so was sitting in a spinning centrifuge.
"It makes you feel really heavy when you try to lift your arms," Erica said. "It didn't really feel like you were spinning. You just felt heavy."
Feeling heavy on a regular basis would certainly interfere with Erica's interest in basketball, track and tumbling, never mind how difficult it would be to keep her hand steady long enough to sketch.
Erica is also an artist, something she only recently discovered.
"I didn't think I would like art, but it turns out I like drawing with pencil," said Erica, whose penciled self portrait landed her a fourth-place ranking in a Visual Arts Scholastic Event sponsored by the Texas Art Education Association.
"I guess I'm like a little kid who wants to be everything," Erica said. "So, I'm trying it all out."
Ditto for Melina, 16, who said that even though it would be "awesome and amazing" to go the moon or Mars, she will never be an astronaut.
"We did a fake shuttle launch, but it was so hard to keep up," Melina said. "There was too much to remember. I was trying to keep track of the script and flip switches while people were yelling through the headset.
During the mission, Melina's team gave her a call-name of "All Y'all," a nod to her Texan roots.
Melina, a basketball player and pianist, is thinking of following her father's footsteps straight to a career in engineering.
"I think I want to be a chemical engineer when I'm older," Melina said. "I've seen how my dad works and his job looks really fun to me."
Their father, Gary Stephens, is a chemical engineer in the oil refining and petrochemical industries.
He said he's proud of his girls for working hard on their camp applications, trying new things and meeting people from around the world.
Melina loved the fact that in her group of 14, only four students were American.
And during graduation, a young lad from Scotland dressed up in a kilt, Melina said.
Now back at home, Melina and Erica will employ modern technology to keep in touch with their international pals.
"Everybody is already friends on Facebook," Erica said. "It's very cool."
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