By Jessica Wettig
Vienna High School senior Asa Sparks recently completed the NASA Wings Summer Camp at SIU School of Aviation Management and Flight.
This program is a weeklong camp that works in conjunction the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. It gives students the opportunity to learn about space communication and navigation systems and their impact and benefit on aviation.
Students accepted had to be finishing their freshman, sophomore or junior year of high school and nominated by a counselor or math/science teacher.
Sparks said he, and the seven other students accepted, studied satellites and planes, and he even got to fly a plane. He flew one over his house at one point, and flew to St. Louis. He did this under supervision of an aviation professional.
He said at one point they visited the Challenger Learning Center in St. Louis, where he and his peers had the chance to simulate a space mission. He said it was much like role playing, and there was a model space ship available for them to work with.
Much of the work was done on computers.
He said the mission involved searching for microscopic life on Mars, and that he was in charge of the rover.
Sparks is on track to graduate valedictorian in May, and will obtain his Associate of Science degree at the same time he graduates high school. He plans to attend University of Illinois and has strong interests in astronomy and astrophysics.
He said he is a huge fan of astrophysicist Neil Degrasse Tyson.
He is the oldest of three children to Sheriff’s Deputy Scott Sparks and VHS Media Specialist Rosa Sparks. He has two sisters, Maelee, a freshman at VHS, and Kendyl, a sixth grader at Vienna Grade School.
Sparks’ other interests include television and video games, particularly The Office and Skyrim. He also has interests in mathematics.