The Ritzville Adams County Journal - Eastern Adams County's Only Independent Voice Since 1887

By Jeremy Burnham

LRHS junior to blast off to aerospace residency in Seattle


Last updated 7/11/2019 at 10:56am

Contributed photo

The Museum of Flight, located at Boeing Field in Seattle. Jessica Heater, a Lind-Ritzville High school junior, will be attending a seven-day residency at the museum as part of the Western Aerospace Scholars' Summer Residency Program.

Lind-Ritzville High School junior Jessica Heater doesn't yet know what she wants to do with her future, but she says she's never thought much about space.

She's thinking plenty about it now, ever since she was chosen to take part in Western Aerospace Scholars' Summer Residency Program.

The WAS is a two-phase learning program put on by the Museum of Flight in Seattle in partnership with the University of Washington. The program accepts Washington, Oregon and Montana students.

According to the WAS website, "The online curriculum is a University of Washington college course focused on NASA's space exploration program as well as topics in Earth and Space Science."

"Phase One" consisted of nine online lessons designed by UW and NASA. "Phase Two" is the residency program in Seattle.

A WAS press release describes Phase Two as "a six-day experience that will be held at The Museum of Flight in Seattle. In each session, four student teams cooperate to plan a human mission to Mars with support from professional engineers/scientists, university students and certificated educators. Additionally, participants receive briefings from aerospace professionals, tour engineering facilities and compete in hands-on engineering challenges."

While Jessica says she has never been that interested in space, she is very interested in STEM fields.

"I don't know what I want to do for a career, but I know I want to do something in the medical field or some type of engineering, so this program could really help me." Jessica said.

When she was approached by a math instructor about the program, she knew it was something she needed to look into.

"Mr. [Thomas] Pulliam, my math teacher, told me about it," Jessica said. "I went home and looked into it, and I applied ... I wrote an essay saying why I wanted to [take part in the program] and how it will help me."

Her application was accepted, and she was ready to take part in Phase One.

She had to complete the Phase One classes in addition to her full load of high school classes. While the courses combined are worth five college credits at UW, they aren't worth any high school credits.

Pulliam works with students during the online portion of WAS and during the summer residency. In an email to The Journal, he said the course isn't easy.

"This is my seventh year of working as a teacher in this program," Pulliam wrote in an email. "Usually when I start the online portion, I am assigned about 20 to 25 students that I will be working with for the school year. By the end of the year I might have 12 to 15, as it is that rigorous of a course."

Pulliam said the experience is a rewarding one for the students.

"At the summer residency, it's amazing to see 40 students leave at the end of the week different people than when they started the week," Pulliam said. "I know the same will happen for Jessica."

Jessica's mother, Christina Heater, was initially concerned about the added workload the courses presented.

"I was worried," Christina Heater said. "I was worried at first, because she is a little bit of a perfectionist and always wants to try to do her best. And so, I was a little worried that it would be a little too much and a little overwhelming."

Jessica quickly calmed her mother's worries.

"After she completed the first two lessons, I said, 'OK, this is OK,'" Christina Heater said.

Jessica said the lessons were difficult, but very useful. For example, they required her to write essays in APA format. APA format is often required in college courses, but not often used in high school. She said the courses also made some of her high school courses seem easier when compared to her WAS courses.

Jessica says she would recommend the programs to others, despite the workload. So does her mother.

"I'd say, 'Go for it, at least try,'" Jessica said. "If you can't do it, fine. But try. Put in effort."

"Go for it," added Christina Heater. "Though, you have to practice time management."

The residency in Seattle isn't the only school-related trip Jessica is taking this summer. WAS has several partnerships with universities across the country. One such university is Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, Arizona.

Embry-Riddle invited WAS students to write an essay in response to a prompt. They chose eight students, based on their essays, to attend an all-expense-paid three-day visit to the campus in Prescott. She will be doing that in August.

While Jessica still doesn't see herself pursuing a career in aerospace sciences, both she and her mother believe the program is very beneficial to any student interested in a STEM career.

"If anyone wants to go into any kind of science field, whether it's math or engineering, this was a great program," Christina said.


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