BOYNTON BEACH, Fla. — While many people were hoping to see the Artemis 1 launch go off without a hitch, one group of students watched with even more attention.
Boynton Beach Community High School has the only Aerospace Science Academy in the School District of Palm Beach County.
It gives students the opportunity to earn college credit in the aviation field. The curriculum is in partnership with the school district and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, offering classes in the fields of aviation, aeronautical science, aviation maintenance and unmanned systems (drones).
Dr. Scott Mitchell is a professor at Embry-Riddle and leads the Boynton Aerospace Science Academy, or BASA, program.
"We build rockets. We build robots. We do fly unmanned systems or drone planes," Mitchell said. "It exposes underprivileged kids who don't necessarily have the opportunity to be involved in aviation or the aerospace industry. They have the analytical, the engineering, the technical know-how and, most of all, they are leaving with dual credit – college credit that will allow them not to spend so much money when they go off to college."
His students watched as the launch got scrubbed, also scrubbing some of their watch party plans for the day.
Junior Sam Reiter is the rocket enthusiast in the class.
"I didn't have a good feeling about today's launch attempt," he said.
But he's looking forward to when it happens.
"It's inspiring," Reiter said. "It's really cool for me because it's bringing back history for people who got to see the shuttle and writing new history for people who didn't."
Mitchell sees the impact he is able to make on the students and, in turn, on the aviation industry. He said the goal is to help alleviate the pilot shortage with the students coming out of this program.
"We are impacting the future," Mitchell said. "Not only are these students being impacted, but families and industries are being impacted, and that's a great feeling because we know we are doing something that's needed, necessary and the students excel. When I graduated, I made it a mission of mine, I wanted to go back and help students who look like me. Color doesn't matter anymore with our program. We take them all and we produce some fantastic individuals who are doing great things out in the industry."
Senior Madison Fauntleroy wants to launch what she is learning into a future career. She hopes to be a NASA surgeon someday.
"Pretty much everything we do here, we have an opportunity for a hands-on learning experience and we really get to feel the airplane and feel the simulators," she said.
Fauntleroy said knowing the Artemis mission is hoping to bring the first woman and person of color to the moon someday gives her hope that anything is possible.
"(If) you have the drive and the passion and the work, you can be on the moon. You can be on mars. You can really do anything," she said.
Mitchell said the students "really feed off the information and knowledge when they are able to see what they read on paper or see on the internet and then actually see it in person."
As for the opportunities the Artemis mission is affording to women and minorities, Mitchell said it's "a testament to what America truly can be and that we now have opportunities for all individuals."