Students learn about space and how to reach for the stars


We often encourage our kids to reach for the stars, but after a speech from Former NASA engineer Mike Lutomski many Ipswich school students may be aiming for the moon instead.

Mr Lutomski impressed more than 400 Ipswich primary school students with his out-of-this-world stories of space exploration and the science and technology behind space flight.

He spoke to the Years 3 to 6 students at the Space and Sustainability Day, held at the University of Southern Queensland’s Springfield and Ipswich campuses.

Having worked nearly 30 years at NASA and in private industry, he shared his experiences about building space craft and working for the International Space Station program. He said he enjoyed educating young people about space flight, sustainability and climate change.

“STEM is very important for society because we need to have scientists and people inventing things so the world can continue to evolve,” the ex-NASA engineer said.

“Space is a good vehicle for inspiring young people to study and research things like medicine, climate change and energy efficiency because we need to find ways to produce sustainable energy.

“I encourage kids to respect the planet and to care for what I call this ‘Spaceship Earth’ that we live on because it’s not like we can go to another place to live. Not for a long time anyway.”

Mr Lutomski impressed the enthusiastic youngsters, but none more so than Sam O’Neill.

The Ipswich Junior Grammar School student was so inspired by Mr Lutomski he built a rocket for him during one of the program’s activities afterwards.

“I had a blast and really enjoyed listening to Mike talk about what happens in space,” Sam said.

“I have always wanted to be an astronaut because I reckon it would be cool to go to space.”

The Space and Sustainability Day was aimed at raising aspirations and inspiring the next generation, to work towards careers in science, engineering and technology.

The students had the opportunity to play with plasma balls, learn about atoms and elements and operate USQ’s 737 flight simulator.

They also heard from CSIRO’s Bill Flynn and retired high school teacher Ian Stuart who teaches atomic theory at primary school.

Event organiser USQ Professor Marie Kavanagh said the University was thrilled to have an excellent line-up of speakers for the day.

“The main purpose of the event was to encourage the students to reach for the stars and expand their horizons,” Professor Kavanagh said.

“By listening to these inspirational speakers talk about the magic of science and where that can lead, we hope students walked away feeling inspired and empowered to play their part in creating a sustainable future.”