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Historic female Eagle Scout service project aims high with Space Camp at Boys & Girls Club

Hoping to become recognized among the historic first group of female Eagle Scouts, Ani Hovanesian chose her required service project to focus on teaching critical thinking and problem-solving skills to elementary age kids in a fun Space Camp pilot program to benefit participants of the Boys & Girls Club of Laguna Beach. 

“Along with several other girls in Troop 35, I’m really excited at the possibility of being among the world’s first female Eagle Scouts. Putting on a Space Camp as my Eagle project made perfect sense for me. I was lucky enough to go to NASA’s Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama, home of the Saturn 5 rocket that went to the moon. It was incredible to be on site where history was created and to learn from challenging projects all related to my love of science. I wanted to share this experience in some way with kids in Laguna who can’t go to Space Camp.” 

Historic female closeup

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Ani Hovanesian experimenting with wheel design on rubber band-powered rover

The Boys & Girls Club, which has a long-standing STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) initiative, thought a Space Camp program would be perfectly aligned. 

Boys & Girls Club CEO Pam Estes said, “Ani’s Space Camp was the timely and a perfect gift to our Club members at the Boys & Girls Club of Laguna Beach. Creating excitement about science and engineering among our kiddos, equipping them with problem-solving skills, and modeling volunteerism are important priorities.” 

Hovanesian first gained approval for the project from Scouts BSA, the organization formerly known as Boy Scouts, which began admitting girls to the organization in February 2019. She first led her fellow Scouts from Troop 35 in practicing the lesson plans and assembling kits of materials for the students. Next, over the last week in July, the Scouts under Ani’s leadership did a trial run of four days of camp for Cub Scouts, who are of similar age to the intended participants at the Boys & Girls Club. 

Historic female classroom

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Ani and Yaretsi Mendoza (on right) in classroom – Space Camp member presents his space hotel

Classes were conducted live and in person but socially distanced outdoors at local parks with no more than ten participants, and everyone wearing masks and using lots of hand sanitizer. Each of the four classes had three activities, for example, the design and building of rockets powered by air or Alka-Seltzer, designing zero-gravity astronaut living quarters, and creating a simulated “Mars rover,” which competed in speed and distance traveled. 

One experiment involved constructing heat shields of different materials, like aluminum foil and copper mesh. Each “engineer’s” design was tested under adult supervision with a blow torch to see how long the marshmallow “astronauts” could survive. Through the messy and fun modules, participants learned about the engineering process, magnetism, aerodynamics, propulsion, acceleration, heat capacity, and even how moon craters were created. 

All activities were developed by Ani’s experiences at Space Camp and from ideas on the Jet Propulsion Laboratory website. One participant, Malachite Campbell, said, “The rover was my favorite part because I could test out different wheels to see what would work in the grass or on pavement.”

Historic female rockets

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Launching stomp rockets

After trying out the programs on Cub Scouts with her helpers, fellow Scouts May Chapman and Chloe Duong, Ani then held four classes for Boys & Girls Club live and in person just after its reopening in mid-August. 

One of her youngest campers, Kindergartener Phoenix Aguilera, remarked, “My favorite part was making beautiful rockets! I liked how the people in space live and how fast rockets fly. The best part was all of the fun experiments!” 

Yaretsi Mendoza, who directs the STEM initiative for the Boys & Girls Club, expressed her excitement over continuing the Space Camp program. “It was a wonderful program that got the Kinders all the way to the third graders excited and looking forward to the following day! I cannot wait to roll these projects out to more kids at other Boys & Girls Club locations and throughout the school year.”

Asked about the historic significance of Ani potentially being among the first female Eagle Scouts, she answered, “I think what is significant is lighting the spark in kids to love science for years to come.” She jokingly continued, “It’s really not hard. It’s just rocket science.” 

For more information about Scouts BSA and Troop 35, go to www.lb35.org.