Across Alaska and around the country, students are getting their heads back in school mode this week. Eleven-year-old Teagan Bailey has had education on his mind all summer, though, spending ten days of it living like a college student on the University of Alaska Anchorage campus at ANSEP’s Middle School Academy.
Two years ago Teagan’s older brother Aimery Bailey attended ANSEP Middle School Academy. After hearing from Aimery about how much knowledge he gained from the component and how much fun it was, Teagan wanted to experience it for himself. When he found out he had been accepted to the Middle School Academy this summer, he couldn’t wait to get a head start his own STEM education and career.
“Middle School Academy was so much fun,” said Teagan. “I made so many new friends and learned how to use teamwork to solve math and science problems. I’m already excited to come back next summer for STEM Career Exploration.”
When asked about his favorite part of Middle School Academy, Teagan had a hard time choosing among making new friends, building his own computer and designing a balsa bridge.
“I think the balsa bridge build was my favorite part,” Teagan ultimately decided. “Each team chose which design to build and how to go about building it. We put the frame together first, which made it harder to connect the inside pieces. But, with teamwork and a little help from the ANSEP staff, we figured it out together!”
By overcoming challenges created by activities like the balsa bridge build, Teagan says he feels confident and prepared to start the new school year.
“Many students are just now starting to think about math and science. It has been on my mind all summer. Those are my favorite subjects in school so it was really cool to be surrounded by peers at ANSEP Middle School Academy who share those interests,” said Teagan.
Although he is only going into the sixth grade, Teagan already knows he wants to be a STEM professional when he is older and has even narrowed down his field of interest.
“My dream is to become an astronaut. I know if I want to do that, it will be very hard work and take lots of math and science,” said Teagan. “At Middle School Academy, I’m already learning the skills I need to be successful in my upper-level classes. That puts me one step closer to achieving my dreams!”
Over the years, ANSEP has delighted students like Teagan, who not only respect and admire astronauts but want to become one, by selecting speakers for the annual ANSEP Celebration who have made incredible achievements in the aerospace field and had an impact everywhere from mission control to the surface of the moon to Mars.
In 2016, the speaker was renowned NASA Aerospace Engineer Anita Sengupta, lead systems engineer for the supersonic parachute required to successfully deliver the Mars rover Curiosity to the planet’s surface. Prior to that, ANSEP hosted four NASA astronauts over the years. ANSEP students, alumni, parents and strategic partners were able to gather inspiration from real American heroes like Buzz Aldrin, one of the first two men to land on the moon as part of Apollo 11; Gene Cernan, the last man on the moon, as part of the Apollo 17 mission; and Jim Lovell, best known as the commander of the Apollo 13 mission who was played by Tom Hanks in the film adaptation. Perhaps ANSEP’s biggest tie to the world of astronauts? The organization actually worked to first develop its first Middle School Academy in partnership with the Bernard Harris Foundation, the charitable organization founded by the first African American to walk in space.
Teagan’s favorite thing about space exploration is that the possibilities are endless and it goes on forever. With his drive and determination as well as knowing how important math and science are to his education and career, Teagan is on track to go from the Last Frontier to the Final Frontier.