Sunday, May 04, 2014

The AstroNuts Kids' Space Club puts on a Science Party

          by Chuck Black

Those who believe that a small group of passionate enthusiasts can't have a far larger effect on the wider community might just want to check out the AstroNuts Kids' Space Club, a Newmarket, ON. based community group, which just finished up its 3rd annual "What's Up in Space Camp and Astronuts STEM Contest" on May 4th.

Members of the 2014 class of the AstroNuts Kids' Space Club including founders Brett and his father Ray Bielecki (at right) during the 3rd annual "What's Up in Space Camp and Astronuts STEM Contest" on May 4th. In the background is a member of the Vader's Fist 501st Legion outfitted as a Star Wars storm-trooper. Photo c/o author.

And while there are those who would consider one astronaut to be hard to come by, the AstroNuts managed to corral three for the event, including retired Canadian Space Agency (CSA) astronauts Chris Hadfield, Bjarni Tryggvason and even current astronaut David Saint-Jacques.

And a fourth, former astronaut Dave "Dafydd" Williams, contributed in his own way from his current position as president and CEO of the Southlake Regional Health Centre. Proceeds from the event went to support the Southlake Regional Hospital Foundation for Cancer Research.  

Also participating were CBC space expert and Quirks and Quarks host Bob MacDonald, space science and business reporter Elizabeth Howell, York University astronomy professor Paul Delany, University of Toronto Institute of Aerospace Studies (UTIAS) Space Flight Laboratory (SFL) rover experts Henry Zhu and Chris Staffen along with members of the Ontario Falconry Centre (and their owls and falcons) plus quite a few other science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) advocates who put on a show for over 150 interested attendees.

AstroNuts and their parents checking out the event. Photo c/o author.

The core of this particular meeting was the AstroNuts STEM Contest, a science fair for primary school students focused around space themes. As outlined by organizer Ray Bielecki, "whatever projects you have and whatever communities you can create you can go out and do it. If you go after your dreams, you are going to get a trophy, either now or later on in life..."

The AstroNuts have developed substantial local community support in their short existence. For example, Newmarket regional councilor John Taylor, who also made a short presentation during the event, was "impressed and excited by the future of our communities because our children are embracing science, innovation and creativity" through organizations like the AstroNuts.

Glen Iverson, the vice president of  the North American Propulsion and Aerospace Society (NAPAS), a non-commercial, non-profit rocketry organization in front of a variety of rockets used for the NAPAS presentation at the 3rd annual "What's Up in Space Camp and Astronuts STEM Contest." The Toronto based NAPAS provides members with a venue to learn about high power and experimental rocketry through various rocketry related activities, including launches, lectures, seminars and hands-on workshops. Photo c/o author. 

The organization has also received endorsement from Liz Sandals, the Ontario minister of education; Marillyn Hewson, the chairman, president and CEO of Lockheed Martin Corporation and Newmarket mayor Tony Van Bynen

The club has certainly come a long way in its four years of existence and even since it was  first profiled in the June 11th, 2011 post "Astronut" Brett at NASA for Final Shuttle Launch."

Here's wishing the AstroNuts and their organizers, Brett and Ray Bielecki, the best of luck over the next stage of their evolution.

A small UTIAS SFL rover demonstrated at the 3rd annual "What's Up in Space Camp and Astronuts STEM Contest" on May 4th. Photo c/o author.

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