Corbin Croom, a junior at Central Valley High School, hopes to be a doctor someday, probably an orthopedic surgeon.
Or, he could be a pilot. He’s not sure yet.
“If I have to, I’ll be a doctor who flies,” he said.
Although he still has a few years to go before he reaches his goals, he recently received an opportunity to see what it would be like to be an astronaut at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Ala.
“Both of these occupations involve taking a leadership role,” he said.
He attended Space Camp, Feb. 27 through March 5, through the Honeywell Leadership Challenge Academy – a program offered to children of Honeywell employees between the ages of 16 and 18. His father, Mike Croom, is an engineer for Honeywell.
Croom said he wrote a few essays about how the program would benefit him and help him reach his goals and was accepted to Space Camp. Everything he needed to attend was paid for, except for his plane ticket.
“It was a great time,” he said.
During the week, Croom said students learned about DNA. They extracted it from tilapia, cow livers, strawberries and kiwis. They learned about how DNA and space go together and how DNA can show whether a person is prone to obesity or high blood pressure.
The students – 160 of them in all from 20 countries and 28 states – had a chance to use the flight simulator, study mission control and the International Space Station.
“It gave me a view of what it’s like to be a pilot,” Croom said.
They used the G-force simulator – he explained that a ‘G’ is 10 times your weight. The simulator got them up to 3.2 Gs.
They simulated an incident command center – they coordinated emergency support for a pretend tornado using real news reports from a previous storm.
The students built small rockets and shot them into the air. Croom said his rocket reached about 600 feet.
Not everything the students learned was related to science and space. Croom said that during their leadership classes, they talked about teamwork and listening to others. He said the students all had strong personalities – “everyone was right,” he joked – so there were disagreements. Counselors told the students to work things out themselves to learn to work with others.
Croom said that despite coming from so many places, the only real difference between the students was their languages. Although they all spoke English, he made friends with students from Romania, France, Italy, Mexico, Finland, India and Belgium.
He said he worked on his own Spanish skills by only speaking that language with the students from Mexico.
He also listened to astronauts speak such as Robert “Hoot” Gibson and Anousheh Ansari, the first Iranian astronaut.
Back home in Liberty Lake, the 17-year-old Croom is a percussionist in the Central Valley band. He loves the outdoors and recently joined a swim team.
He plans to stay in touch with the friends he made at Space Camp through online social media and brought back many good memories.
“Everyone should go,” he said. “It was awesome.”