STEM in the Community and NASA at Palmerston North

Sunday 8th January 2023 – By Rachael Pratt

Arriving in Palmerston North on Saturday evening, the realisation that it was finally NASA tour time hit.

My first stop was to the amazing Blueprint Makerspace. Where Zak showed me around their fabulous space. What a fantastic resource for the people of Palmerston North. Zak then provided us with some awesome components for our Sunday activity.

Sunday morning arrived and I finally met NASA Astronaut Dr. Kate Rubins, a very friendly and warm person, I felt at ease that the rest of the day would go smoothly. After brunch we parted ways, and I headed to Te Manawa to prepare for the afternoon.

With the help of some fabulous volunteers, we set up for part one of our NASA tour.
Welcoming over 120 attendees to listen to Dr. Rubins inspiring story of her journey to NASA and to the ISS. A Q&A followed, Dr. Kate told me later how impressed she was with the level of questions that people were asking.

We wrapped up the Q&A and headed to the lobby area of Te Manawa where 22 teams took part in the Pathfinder Egg drop challenge. With the contents of their provided packs, could they make a capsule to safely land an eggstronaut? A twist was added when the teams were able to choose a bonus component from the Blueprint items to enhance their creation.

All 22 teams were then sent upstairs to launch their capsules. The range of entries was amazing to see, some great cooperation, imagination and team work had gone into working out how to safely deliver the eggs to the ground. All landed on the blue tarp below, with a lot surviving and a few very audibly not, landing with a distinct smashing noise.

A few teams were awarded prizes for innovation, creativity and teamwork. But everyone was commended for giving it a go.

After tidying up the space, once again with the help of the fabulous volunteers, that was a wrap on stage one of the journey. I can’t thank the volunteers or the team at Te Manawa enough, without all of you the event couldn’t have happened.

Thanks Palmerston North for a wonderful start to the Central North Island tour!

Photography: Quinn Hautapu & Michelle Hazeleger-Mollard (Please credit STEM Wana Trust/STEMFest)