In the first week of the summer holidays, a small group of RHS students took part in a GDST trip to visit NASA in Florida. This was the first time such a trip had taken place, and in total there were 83 students from six different GDST schools who took part in it. Everyone that went on it agreed that it was one of the most amazing and inspirational trips that they have been on, and one that they will remember for quite some time to come. We hope that you enjoy reading the following diary extracts from the trip.
Day 1 – Travel to Orlando
After a very early 5.00am departure from school, it was a huge relief to get to Gatwick with no traffic hold-ups and to find that all of our Year 13 students had safely arrived on time. It was great to meet some of the students and staff from the other GDST schools before we headed off to check in for our flight. Stowaway surprise in the Departure lounge - Edison Bear decided to come along on the trip as well! A smooth passage through Customs & Immigration stateside and then onto our ‘space’ bus for our transfer to our hotel. Weather overcast & humid – we hoped it would improve for the following day.
Day 2 – Physics in action at Universal Studios
Universal Studios today. It was very hot and sunny! But everyone was excited and looking forward to visiting this amazing place. There are different sections within the park: for those of us who love the Marvel movies, there is a huge section with all different kinds of roller coasters and souvenir shops for you to dive in; for those who have loved Harry Potter since childhood, there is a tour to show you around the ‘mini’ Hogwarts and the ‘mini’ Village as if you are one of the Wizards.
One of the rides which I remember really clearly is called the ‘Hollywood Rockit’, you can choose a song before the ride begins and then... go rock and roll with the screaming! We also discovered giant donuts, which quickly drew Maame and Kalina’s attention! In the evening, we had dinner at a restaurant called the ‘Bubba Gump’ where we also learnt stories about ‘Forest Gump’ and the Vietnam War.
Emily Yan, Year 12
Day 3 – Kenney Space Centre
After another early start to the day, we took our space coach to the Kennedy Space Centre. As we entered the Space Centre, the first thing we were able to see was the Rocket Garden, which displayed rockets which had actually been up into space. We also learnt about the history of previous astronauts and what it takes to become a NASA astronaut.
After lunch, we were given a bus tour of the different parts of NASA, including the launch pads, the original offices (where there were no windows on the ground floor to keep peeping eyes out!), and the main NASA vehicle assembly building, where they assembled many of the rockets. We got to see the main NASA logo and the American flag next to it on the building, which was huge - it is 209 feet (63.7 m) high, and 110 feet (33.5 m) wide. Each of the stars on the flag is 6 feet (1.83 m) across, the blue field is the size of a regulation basketball court, and each of the stripes is 9 feet (2.74 m) wide.
We were also allowed to see the original control centre, where many of NASA’s most famous rockets have been launched from. A simulation was created to allow us to feel what it felt like as the rocket took off and the anticipation that was involved. When the rocket took off, the chairs vibrated and the windows rattled!
On getting back to the hotel some of us went to the pool for a swim.
Tilly Higgins, Year 12
Day 4 – Orlando Science Centre
After the first three amazing but tiring days, we got a much-deserved lie in! We woke up for breakfast at 8:30 am (as opposed to 6.30 am!) and enjoyed a buffet breakfast, which I think we all ate way too much of! We then set off for the Orlando Science Centre, a large circular building which is a host to many different areas of science. The day started with a show called “Kaboom”.
In the show, we saw different gases being ignited and creating different coloured and sized flames. The last balloon was our favourite as it was the loudest and the largest, however, some of us did get a bit scared and blocked their ears. We then continued around the Science Centre to the dome. In the dome, we watched a 3D video about engineers which left all of us inspired!
After the delicious subway we had for lunch, we continued to the top floor where we got involved with interactive activities such as computer quizzes and paper airplanes that you had to fly through targets (which is much harder than it sounds). We learnt about hormones and DNA, forces, fossils and much more. Edison bear even tried our earthquake resistant building which didn’t go exactly to plan. After having a look around the gift shop and picking out gifts to give to friends and family members, we went back to the hotel and had a relaxing evening – where we could enjoy the pool or just lie in our rooms after another eventful and enjoyable day.
Bethan Hughes, Year 12
Day 5 – Lunch with an astronaut at Kennedy Space Centre
Being back at NASA for the second time was brilliant! Also like our first day, it was exceptionally inspirational! However, our highlight, of course, was the ‘lunch with an astronaut’. The Astronaut that we met was Scott Parazynski, who has been on 5 different space shuttle missions, been on 19 research missions and spent 47 hours outside the shuttle on ‘spacewalks’ (he has also climbed to the top of Everest!).
So he was a big deal in the world of space. Kalina and I were extra excited when he answered our questions, I asked “What’s the craziest thing you did in space?”, and Kalina asked, “What’s the question you always wish people would ask you?” He was very charismatic and extremely cool about the whole thing! We got a group picture with him (individual schools and a GDST one), and many of us got his autograph too! A stop at Disney Springs for a meal at Planet Hollywood rounded off an incredibly inspiring day!
Katie Baldrian, Year 12
Day 6 – Behind the scenes at Universal Studios
The second time we went to Universal Studios was a special day for me because it was my 17th birthday. On this day we were lucky enough to be given a VIP behind the scenes tour of the Islands of Adventure in Universal Studios.
We were able to experience the most popular ride in the park which was the Spiderman indoor ride. Firstly, we did the ride with all the lights on and without 3D glasses in order to get a feel of how the special effects actually work, then we were led to the back area to talk to the mechanics and operators of the ride. It was here that we learnt about squinching, wig wags and pucks, and one of the operators, named Pablo, had been working on the ride for over 20 years!
After we all rode a roller coaster known as the Hulk which sped up to about 40 mph and initial takeoff came with a G-force of 4G’s, we then discussed the movements of an indoor ride (the six degrees of motion) and the effects they create on a rider. We were then tasked to apply this knowledge to the King Kong ride known as Kong Skull Island. Later that day it started to rain - as is the norm for summer in Florida - and with the rain came some really beautiful rainbows.
To end the day we had dinner at the Hard Rock Café where I was given a free Sundae to celebrate my birthday and card signed by all the staff of the Hard Rock Café. All together it was a beautiful day.
Maame Asumadu-Addo, Year 12
Day 7 – Boggy Creek airboat ride and return to the UK
On the last day, we slept in, packed all of our baggage and got back on the coach; heading to our last activity in Orlando. We finally arrived at Boggy Creek, where we went on an airboat ride! It is located in the Florida Everglades, a nature reserve full of beautiful wildlife which allowed us to see the natural side of Florida; a nice final change from the modern technology we had been learning about and experiencing in the previous days of the trip.
We eventually boarded the airboat, slipped on our life jackets and ear protection, and set off. We came across a variety of birds, including herons, waterfowl and many more. The driver of our boat was very kind and talked about each one we encountered, somehow recognising each species – there were so many! Twice, we came across alligators. The first was a female guarding her eggs and nest in the grasses, only her nostrils and piercing eyes visible above the water. The second, however, was freely swimming by our airboat and rushed away when he saw us coming.
After we finished our airboat ride, as we were waiting for the rest of the GDST schools to return, a bottle-nosed turtle came out of the water and greeted us!
When everybody was all back on land, we were given an awesome presentation about the native American tribes, which had lived in the area, by a lovely woman with native American ancestry herself. She chose Maame as her volunteer in the presentation, too!
After we finished up at Boggy Creek, we went to the airport and waited for our flight back home to England, which ended up being delayed by two hours due to Florida’s daily afternoon thunderstorms. At the gate in Orlando International Airport, we saw quite a show of lightning and showers, with the grand finale of a double rainbow! We were certainly sad to be leaving Orlando but glad to be on the journey home. Everybody definitely had an amazing time and learned tons as well during the trip.
Kalina Borisova, Year 10