Mission Control Essay Contest Winners to be Honored

October 11, 2012

Local student and teacher winners to participate in a live Q&A with the International Space Station

When the South Florida Science Museum announced that it would be holding an essay contest to determine who would have the privilege of communicating with the International Space Station (ISS), hundreds of students and teachers reached for the stars.

After an extremely difficult judging process, a panel of experts has selected 11 students and two teachers they believe are best fit for the mission.

The following contest winners will be honored with a private reception at the Museum on Friday, Oct. 12 from 6-8 p.m. There, the Museum and members of the West Palm Beach Amateur Radio Club will offer congratulations and an overview of the opportunity to speak with the astronauts on the ISS as it passes overhead the week of October 22-26 (exact date and time to be determined).

Jerry A. Stegenga III
3rd grade
Pine Tree Lane Academy Homeschool
Mary Dixon
12th grade
Wellington Community High School
Peter Rawlik
8th grade
Palm Beach Maritime Academy, Lantana
Crista Johnson
8th grade
Watson B. Duncan Middle School, Palm Beach Gardens
Connor Cane
3rd grade
Poinciana Elementary School, Boynton Beach
Khiarra Carter
5th grade
Grove Elementary School, Belle Glade
Emma Lilly Menzer
3rd grade
Sunset Palms Elementary School, Boynton Beach
Gabriela Sanchez
7th grade
Woodlands Middle School, Lake Worth
Chloe Amelie-Aikman
5th grade
Calusa Elementary School, Boca Raton
Finley Keefe Murray
3rd grade
Palm Beach Day Academy, West Palm Beach campus
Catherine Zeng
9th grade
A.W. Dreyfoos School of the Arts, West Palm Beach
Erich Landstrom
Seminole Ridge Community High School, The Acreage
Linda Petuch
Pine Jog Elementary, Greenacres

Contest participants submitted a 250-word essay on the topic: “Why is space exploration important and what does it mean to me?” The essays were submitted first to school administrators who determined the winning essay from each school. From there, the essays were judged at the South Florida Science Museum by a panel including local media, school district administrators, HAM radio operators and astronomers.

This unique opportunity has been arranged by Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS). Driven by NASA and other international space agencies, ARISS specializes in coordinating scheduled radio contacts between astronauts aboard the ISS and school-based organizations. The South Florida Science Museum was one of the few organizations in the country invited to make space station contact this year.


“Exploring is the best way to learn.” “I don't want to be a robot when I grow up, I want to be an astronaut.” - Connor Cane, 3rd Grade, Poinciana Elementary School

“As a resident of Florida, hurricanes are a way of life and I know I appreciate the early warning systems that protect us all.” - Chloe-Amelie Aikman, 5th Grade, Calusa Elementary School

“NASA has found new ways to explore the unknown by using technology to explore the harsh environments of planets instead of using people.” - Peter Rawlik, 8th Grade, Palm Beach Maritime Academy

“Because of Mae Jemison and all of the other astronauts, it means a lot to know that if I stay in school and study hard, I too can have a chance to be a part of history.” - Khiarra Carter, 5th Grade, Grove Elementary School

“Space exploration is synonymous to a path of endless possibilities.” - Catherine Zeng, 9th Grade. A.W. Dreyfoos School of the Arts

“Space exploration will continue to unite countries of the world through mutual scientific research and cooperative efforts between our nations.” - Linda Petuch, Teacher, Pine Jog Elementary

“This is a challenge for an eight year old boy to read that Earth will once perish from this vast, marvelous, and beautiful universe. Reassuringly, space exploration gives us a chance to relocate our civilization before it is too late.” - Jerry A. Stegenga III, 3rd Grade, Pine Tree Lane Academy Homeschool

Recalling a visit to the Kennedy Space Center: “As I walked around, I understood how important this program is and how it feeds the inner curiosity and spirit of exploration of our nation and the world.” - Gabriela Sanchez, 7th Grade, Woodlands Middle School

“In the deepest sense, exploration of space is an exploration of yourself.” - Erich Landstrom, Teacher, Seminole Ridge Community High

“Space exploration is important because it teaches us to question the unknown, to search and explore mysteries and to pursue goals of discovering life on another planer or detecting a new galaxy.” - Mary Dixon, 12th Grade, Wellington Community High School

“My questions keep going and going because there is so much to think about!” - Emma Lilly Menzer, 3rd Grade, Sunset Palms Elementary School

“I read that astronauts can see some coral reefs from space.... It is important from astronauts to explore this because they could see if coral reefs are improving or not.” - Finley Murray, 3rd Grade, Palm Beach Day Academy

“NASA's space program incited a revolution in technology and fueled further study in science and math.” -Crista Johnson, 8th Grade, Watson B. Duncan Middle School

For more information about the South Florida Science Museum, visit or call 561.832.1988.


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