TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — As the third week of the Tahlequah Robotics Academy of Critical Engagement Summer Youth Academies began on Monday, youth attending the Cooking in Space camp learned about agriculture and the culinary arts in space.
Campers were taught how people in the International Space Station use hydroponics to grow food on board. Hydroponics is the act of growing food without the help of soil.
Tabitha McIntyre, NASA certified educator, instructed the class on how they grow the food.
“Instead of dirt, they use clay aggregate,” said McIntyre. “They’re clay like pebbles that look like rocks, but they’re not as hard.”
The students began an experiment about the clay aggregates on Monday, when they filled a cup with water and the aggregates. On Tuesday, after letting them sit for 24 hours, they planned to continue the experiment.
McIntyre explained the significance of the astronauts being able to grow their own food. Not only does the growth of plants on board lead to the ability to make longer space flights and push other scientific advancements, it allows the astronauts to have fresh food more often.
“Normally, the astronauts would only get fresh food on the days when space shuttles came to the station,” said McIntyre. “Now that they can grow their own, they don’t have to wait.”
McIntyre wanted to give the kids as realistic of an experience as she could. All food was handed out in pre-packed bags, like it is done in space, and she required kids to keep their trash. This is because if they were in space and they let go of their refuse, it would float away.
“Everything that the youth are making and growing is edible,” said McIntyre. “We’ll be treating it all like it’s in space. We’ll be eating freeze-dried fruit and tortilla peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. They make them with tortillas, because in space, they can’t have bread or the crumbs will float everywhere.”
Teachers and students practice social distancing at their desks and are welcome to wear masks if they desire.
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For more information about the Summer Youth Academies and upcoming camps, visit https://academics.nsuok.edu/continuingeducation/Youth-Programs/Tahlequah-RACE-Summer-Youth-Academies.
Curtis writes for Tahlequah Daily Press, a CNHI LLC publication.