ROBERTS — It's not every day that a giant in science and space exploration visits one of the smallest school districts in Montana.
But on a beautiful day with ideal conditions, NASA kites with a 10-foot span soared 500 feet above Roberts School, collecting data and bringing students the experience of planning a mission to space.
“MSU Bozeman is one of about a dozen partners that are part of the NASA AREN project all across the country," said Suzi Taylor, director of the Science Math Resource Center at Montana State University. "Our goal is really to help introduce young people and teachers to what it’s like to do a NASA mission. Because even though it’s kites, it’s still a NASA mission, and we plan it just the way we would if we were flying a rocket to the moon.”
AREN stands for AEROKATS and Rover Education Network, and flying the kites with cameras attached also collects data on how the temperature, humidity, and wind speed change as the kites climb up to 500 feet.
“The student fly kites, they’re collecting data, they’re thinking about the conditions of the atmosphere and I can see sometimes that the light goes on and they see this is really cool," Taylor said. "Now they can say officially they were part of a NASA project.”
Taylor says the Science and Math Resource Center often brings partnered projects, like the NASA AREN project, to students in the Bozeman area but they don't often visit small-town schools.
Roberts Science Teacher Jen Larson invited the center out, and it's an opportunity Taylor relishes.
“I grew up in a really small school and we didn’t have a lot of opportunities. We had great science classes, but there were no NASA projects. We didn’t hang out with anybody from a university, so for me personally, I love going to small schools," Taylor said.
While kite flying conditions were perfect, it NASA's visit that had students blown away.
"This is the smallest town and out of all the towns [they came here]," said Lexi Boslet, a seventh-grade student at Roberts School.
In the spirit of learning, students borrowed Q2 gear to interview each other.
"What's one thing you learned?" Boslet asks]ed seventh-grader Peyton Docken.
“I learned the kites can go up really high and you can do the weather with it," Docken said.
Roberts students seizing an opportunity to learn more about science and media on a beautiful May day.
"Now, they can officially say they were part of a NASA project," Taylor said. "Someday, if they want to get a job at NASA, they can already put that on their resume."