Daniel Paganelli and Elliott McDonald will be spending much of their summer thinking about Mars.
Beyond that, the two Pierce Couny teens will help plan a human mission to the red planet, thanks to an online education program offered in Pierce County.
Paganelli and McDonald, both 17, were accepted into the Washington Aerospace Scholars Program after competing with 200 other students for the chance to attend a week-long residency at the Museum of Flight in Seattle in Seattle.
As part of the program, the teens will work on the simulated Mars mission with support from professional engineers, scientists, university students and certificated educators.
McDonald sees the opportunity as a way to boost his engineering and aviation skills.
“Maybe I will want to get a job with NASA,” said the Bellarmine Preparatory School student and Fox Island resident.
Paganelli, who attends Gig Harbor High School, comes from a family interested in math and science.
“I am excited for the projects they’ll give us,” he said of the summer program.
Washington Aerospace Scholars connects high school juniors with educational and career opportunities in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. It involves independent learning, hands-on interaction, professional guidance and site-based tours.
In December, Paganelli and McDonald began competing for a spot in one of summer residency sessions by completing 10 NASA- and University of Washington-designed lessons.
The program includes six days at the Museum of Flight in June and July, when four-student teams will work on the Mars mission. They also will receive briefings from aerospace professionals, tour engineering facilities and compete in hands-on engineering challenges.
At Bellarmine, McDonald, who enjoys rock climbing and playing the guitar, found a passion for aviation and the engineering behind it. He’s a few flight hours away from receiving his private pilot’s license.
Paganelli plays lacrosse in Gig Harbor, models and makes music with his family. His father was a weapon systems engineer in the military, so he and his siblings grew up with an interest in math and science.
Both teens said the online course was rigorous, with a lot of math and science. But the chance to work with professional engineers on an experimental project was worth the effort, they said.
Other Gig Harbor students will have the chance to participate in the program before the 2018-19 school year.
Student and teacher applications will be available in August at museumofflight.org/was. Participants must be high school juniors and residents of Washington, Oregon or Montana.
For more information, contact Melissa Edwards, the Museum of Flight’s director of digital learning, at firstname.lastname@example.org.