August 27, 2013

On a Mission to Wentworth…And Mars

From left: Fadumo Yassin, Bruno Brandao, Karen (Zin) Alvarez, Paul Cabrera, Kevin Hensley, Bernard Dubuisson and Soleina Garcia

How far is our society from cultivating Mars? Is the Red Planet a viable option for human survival one day? These questions were examined at length by the Center for Community and Learning Partnerships’ RAMP students on August 16.

Serving as a bridge between high school and college, the RAMP program is six weeks of lessons in composition, research methods, mathematics, and science geared toward Boston Public High School students and Boston residents that will be attending Wentworth as freshmen in the fall.  Staff and faculty members, in addition to former RAMP students, serve as mentors. This summer’s focus was on “A Mission to Mars.”

“The topic seemed to gain ground because there are so many different components when you are thinking about starting a colony on Mars,” said Erik Miller, director of the Center for Community and Learning Partnerships.

Some of those components were explored by the RAMP group, who presented their findings on topics including:

  • The exploration of Earth by figures like Antarctica adventurer Sir Ernest Shackleton and how that intrepid spirit would be needed to reach Mars
  • Learning lessons from deforestation and the release of excessive greenhouse gases
  • The likelihood of developing alternative energies on Mars, such as solar and wind power, as well as the conversion of food waste into energy
  • How to grow food in a radiation-rich atmosphere and how to recycle water

One member of the audience, Provost Russell Pinizzotto, asked who among the group would be interested in traveling to Mars; none of the students volunteered. However, students did relate that a highly skilled team with varying backgrounds would be needed and that teamwork, much as the students displayed throughout the RAMP program, would be vital to the Mars group.

In addition to affording students further learning, as well as exposure to design programs including SketchUp and AutoCAD, the RAMP program serves “as a great way for the students to speak publicly about their ideas and properly relay concepts related to topics and concentrations that interest them,” said Miller.

Now in its third summer at Wentworth, RAMP has supported 32 total students. “At the beginning of the semester, none of these students knew each other,” said Miller.  “Of the two years I have been involved with the program, I realize that this program is integral to the students being able to form social relationships before they even get on campus in the fall.  They form a support group that seems to stick throughout their years.”

Continued Miller, “The potential of building a network is the most attractive aspect of the program.”

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