Thursday, August 9, 2018
By Amanda Tonoli
Instead of relaxing during his summer vacation, an Austintown Fitch High School ninth-grader went to school to learn about STEM.
Ryan Wilt, son of Tammy and Chuck Wilt, spent five days at Bowling Green State University, where he attended Envision’s National Youth Leadership Forum: Pathways to STEM program.
Ryan’s curiosity has been evident since he was young.
At 3, he said, while riding a roller coaster, instead of putting his hands up and posing for a picture for his parents, he merely stared at the mechanics making the ride go up and down.
“We asked him, ‘What are you doing?’” his mother remembered. “And he said, ‘Trying to figure out what makes this go.’”
At the National Youth Leadership Forum, Ryan said he learned about several areas of study – from robotics and engineering to medical and forensics.
“Everything was based around if we were on Mars,” he explained. “In forensics, we got to learn if things still act the same as on Mars. And we learned in medical that if someone gets hurt, you have to know how to do wraps and splints. The robotics portion of the program, we got to design a robot to retrieve an injured passenger.”
But a lot of what he learned, Ryan said he already knew from being in Austintown’s STEM program and robotics club. “It was still cool to go there and use what they had to learn [more].”
In the engineering portion, Ryan got to design a base to use if he were to travel to Mars.
“We had to design a lab, living space, kitchen, medical bay, storage container for water supply and put it together in a 3-D printer program,” he said. “Then we got to talk to Don Thomas, an astronaut who has been to the space station three times and heard his entire presentation about how he joined NASA.”
Ryan even got to touch a small piece of Mars.
“I joke that I’ve touched the moon, the Titanic and now Mars,” he said.
The Titanic piece Ryan touched on a vacation, but the moon piece was at another one of his summer camp adventures.
Last summer, Ryan attended a weeklong camp at Cape Canaveral, where he built and launched solid- fuel-powered mini-rockets for NASA.
Going to the camps helps Ryan figure out what he does and does not want to do moving forward.
“They show me all the different possibilities and show me what I’ll be doing, so it helps me figure out my future,” he said.
Ryan said he wants to become some sort of engineer either in aerospace engineering or as a theoretical aerophysicist.
“He’s amazing,” Tammy said about her son. “It’s amazing how much knowledge he has and how much he gains when he goes to camps and things like this.”