Russell Students Perform Successful ‘Space Shuttle’ Mission

Wearing orange full pressure “pumpkin suits,” the astronauts turned and waved one last time before boarding the space shuttle. Cameras snapped; parents waved, and with that they were locked in their home for the next 27 hours. Meanwhile, mission control began to work through the calculations and systematic steps to send a shuttle into space. The clock in the room ticked down to launch time. A television monitor featured a split-screen of the astronauts, now wearing helmets, as they prepared to embark on an out-of-this world lesson.

The student astronauts and their teammates in mission control were part of the 19th mission to space for the Russell Elementary School Space Program, which first launched in 1998.

The unique space program sends student astronauts on a simulated space mission inside a replica NASA shuttle. The space mission includes a launch, landing, payload deployment, spacewalk, onboard experiments and around-the-clock monitoring of onboard systems from the school’s mock mission control center.

Students in the space program start in August to prepare for launch day.

“They learn about orbital dynamics,” said Chris Laster, Space Team teacher coordinator and founder. “They learn how to work together as a team. They learn how to track telemetry, which is data that is sent down by radio from our space shuttle simulator. They learn how to monitor that for trends to detect problems and malfunctions and how to take measures to solve those problems.”

That’s not all the students learn. Grueling, that’s how Laster described the material the students learn over the course of the eight months leading up to the space launch.

“All the kids learn how to read acronyms from NASA. They have to learn how to read flight plans and time stamps,” explained Tracey Steiner, a Russell science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) lab teacher.

The students tackle the grueling material after school hours. Some of the students spend four days a week for several hours each day preparing for their space mission. The teaching staff help the students develop the math and science skills to understand the different systems aboard the space shuttle and the complexities of the spaceflight operations.

“We learned a lot about technology like radios and computers,” said fifth grader Samantha, one of the student astronauts. “Before I joined the program, I used to call it a space shuttle or a rocket. Now, I know the full term for everything.”

Some of what Samantha learned shocked her, for example, reading about the lack of privacy and bathrooms in space.

Samantha was motivated to join the space team by the stories her brother shared about the program when he came home every day. He was a member of the space team a few years prior.

Samantha’s fifth grade classmate Joy also made the space team a family tradition. Joy’s two sisters are both veterans of the Russell Space Program. Her sister, Princess, was there for Joy’s launch day as commander of the STS-19 team.

“The fact that she was able to buckle down and do all that work and reach the point where she is actually commanding the [space team] is wild,” Princess said.

The older sister has regaled stories of her time in the space program with her new college friends, who she said are shocked that her elementary school has such an elaborate space program.

“I loved the program, and I love how it is growing,” Princess added. “Mission control looks a lot more realistic.

Princess, who is studying biochemistry and molecular biology at the University of Georgia, credits the space program for impacting her interest in science.

Joy and Princess’s dad credits the space program for helping his daughters excel in school.

“[The space program] teaches them how to be leaders,” their father Muhammed Dikko explained. “It teaches them how to stay on task when they are given assignments. It teaches them to take life, in general, seriously. We have seen the changes in [Joy’s] life. We have seen it in our other daughters. I’ve never had to tell them to go do their homework as a result of this [program] because they look forward to it.”

The proud father studied the material with his daughters, but has a confession about wanting to actually join the space team himself.

“It is a lot of hard work,” he said. “I couldn’t do it.”

Students in the space program have gone on to be chemical engineers, high-ranking service members and business owners. According to Laster, one space program veteran and graduate of the Georgia Institute of Technology will soon be writing orbital trajectories and trajectories for space probes. This student, too, credits the space program for propelling him on his career track.

Steiner, who has flown on 10 space flights with students, has a theory about why the space program encourages student success.

“The kids learn that there is a final goal,” Steiner explained. “They work hard and dedicate themselves to making something happen. We either fail together or succeed together, and when they learn they can succeed together, even if it may be the hardest thing they have ever done, they will be up for the challenges of life.”

The students who join the space team undergo a rigorous application process including physical fitness tests. The student astronauts earn the top fitness scores.

“To be selected for space team, you have to write an essay on why you want to join, how you think you can benefit and what skills that you can bring to the team,” astronaut Samantha added. “You basically have to prove that you are good enough to be on the team.”

Although the students must have high grades to join the team, Laster sometimes sees something in a student that others may not. He said that after some students join the program, they start to thrive and do things that they didn’t even know were possible.

Fifth grader Edith, who served as the STS-19 capsule communicator in mission control, said the space program helped her develop better study habits. Her favorite part was making friends and learning how to work more as a team

Princess still keeps up with the friends she made on STS-10 mission.

Astronaut Kelsie, 5th grade, signed up for the STS-19 mission because she knew it would be a great teamwork experience and “It looked fun.”

The students cite varying reasons on why they want to enlist in the space program, but their teacher only has one.

“I’m here for the kids,” said Laster.

He launched the space program after taking Russell students on a trip to the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Ala. A student asked why Russell Elementary couldn’t have a space program like the one in Huntsville. That question started the countdown to the school’s first space mission.

The program started off in the classroom and moved into the separate simulator set up in a trailer outside of the school, which is painted to look like a NASA space shuttle.

Steiner, who hung up her pumpkin suit for the last time after the STS-19 mission, described the space program as the heart and soul of Russell Elementary.

After STS-19 landed on May 9, the astronauts and mission control reunited and celebrated with a parade through the school.

There is a lot of emotion that takes place with the students, parents and teachers on landing day, according to the dad of three veteran space team members.

“There are a lot of tissue boxes being used. Even people who think they never cry, they always end up in tears,” Dikko said.

There was a lot to celebrate this year. About three minutes prior the shuttle landing, a power surge knocked out power in mission control and the simulator. The school staff does sometimes inject malfunctions so the students can use their skills to overcome challenges. This was not a drill.

“[The students] actually trained for that sort of thing,” Laster explained. “What we had not anticipated was that power was also knocked out in the simulator. So that really sent us into a scramble. It also messed up some of the tracking systems the students were using. So they basically had to go it blind at that point. They handled it very well.”

After all the excitement of the landing, the STS-19 team had a lot to discuss during the school press conference. The entire school gathered in the cafeteria to listen to the team answer questions about their mission.

“I hope the space program gets adopted in other schools nationwide because it teaches them a lot of leadership skills,” said Joy and Princess’s father Dikko. “It helps prepare them for the future and life and general. It teaches them how to relate to each other. It goes way above and beyond their everyday school work.”

From the June 2017 issue of The Bright Side, Cobb County Georgia’s Newspaper covering Smyrna, Vinings, Mableton, Powder Springs and Austell, GA.

Linda Keeney Retires After Decade At King Springs

After a decade at King Springs Elementary, and 30 years in Cobb Schools, Linda Keeney has retired as principal.

Her daughter, Amanda Laine Chalk, in a Facebook post, described the scene on her final day and the last day of school. “In true Linda Keeney fashion, she led the buses out and waved goodbye to all of her ‘kids.’”

“She loves this school and the community and what a difference she has made.”

During her tenure as principal King Springs was named a Georgia School of Excellence in 2013; was a Platinum School for Student Achievement during her second year as principal and was twice named a PTA national school of excellence for parent involvement.

“We have rally added a lot a of parent involvement,” she said. “We have a strong PTA and a strong school council.”

Before becoming principal, she worked at Griffin Middle School and Blackwell Elementary.

“I love kids,” she said. “A principalship is a calling. It’s hard to retire because I can’t get beyond having the kids come in in the morning and grabbing me around the legs and saying I love you.“

During the past decade the school has grown from 625 students to some 950 presently. It serves a diverse area with a student population of 43 percent Caucasian, 38 percent African-American and 11 percent Hispanic.

“We ae a true melting pot,” Mrs. Keeney said. “We have parents of all ethnicities involved in the school. We are getting more and more kids. Parents want to get their kids in the King Springs area. Realtors tell me they can’t get enough homes to sell in this district.”

She received praise from the school community and the public.

“She has had a great deal to do with the revitalization of King Springs Elementary,” said Susan Thayer, Cobb Board of Education member from Smyrna. “She put her heart and soul into that community and that school and made it what it is today. She has been a wonderful part of our community and a great principal.”

“Congratulations to retiring King Springs Elementary School Principal, Linda Keeney. Thousands of young lives were enriched through her dedication to excellence and leadership,” said Jeff Jones, chair of the Smyrna Arts and Cultural Council.

What will she be doing in retirement?

“Visiting my grandchildren, there’s a new one due July 26,” she said. “And doing some traveling.”

She plans to take her grandson, who is turning 16 this summer, to Washington D.C.

“I will miss the kids and the teachers most,” she said. “And least, the getting up at the crack of dawn.”

I telling the school about her retirement, she used a quote from Winnie the Pooh: “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”

From the June 2017 issue of The Bright Side, Cobb County Georgia’s Newspaper covering Smyrna, Vinings, Mableton, Powder Springs and Austell, GA.

Sweetwater Mission Seeks Aid For Summer Lunches

During the summer break many children from low-income families in Cobb and Douglas Counties won’t have access to meals provided at school. Sweetwater Mission believes there is nothing more important than helping parents provide healthy meals for their children.

During June and July Sweetwater Mission will provide an additional 80,000 pounds of food by offering additional groceries to families with children. The focus will be nutritious foods like fresh bananas, apples, carrots, potatoes; fresh and frozen meats; 100 percent fruit juice; and kids’ favorites like applesauce, mac and cheese, and peanut butter and jelly.

Sweetwater Mission needs your help. Together, we can ensure that more than 3,500 children eat healthy, play hard and are ready for school at the end of summer break. Donations can be mailed to Sweetwater Mission — Summer Food, P. O. Box 802, Austell, GA 30168 or online at www.SweetwaterMission.org.

From the June 2017 issue of The Bright Side, Cobb County Georgia’s Newspaper covering Smyrna, Vinings, Mableton, Powder Springs and Austell, GA.

Memorial Day Services set

Powder Springs

American Legion Post 294 of Powder Springs will be honoring our deceased veterans at the annual Memorial Day Ceremony to be held Monday, May 29 at Noon at the Powder Springs Veterans Memorial in front of the library at 4181 Atlanta Street.

The program will include the Post’s 9-member Color Guard, commentary, a guest speaker, patriotic music, and the laying of a Memorial wreath, to be followed by Taps. In case of inclement weather, the ceremony will take place inside the George Ford Center community room behind the library.

Our traditional Memorial Day Cookout will begin at 4 p.m. for all Legion family members and guests. The Post will provide the meats, while members are asked to round out the meal by bringing a side dish, salad and/or dessert to share. Donations will be requested in support of the local USO at Hartsfield-Jackson Airport.

“Please invite your friends and neighbors to join us at noon for this solemn holiday,” said Ra Barr, Commander Post 294.

Smyrna

Marking the centennial of America’s entry into World War I, The city of Smyrna will hold its annual Memorial Day ceremony on Monday, May 29 beginning at 9:30 a.m.

In addition to the ceremony there will be displays of military equipment which including current and vintage military and security vehicles and weaponry, a US Marine Patrol Boat, H3 Hummer and Rock Wall and other attractions.

The Georgia Army National Guard Band, Campbell High School JROTC, and USAF Honor Guard will all be participating in the ceremony.

This year’s featured speakers will be MG (Select) Jesse Simmons, Jr., commander of the Georgia Air National Guard, and CPT Donna Rowe, Vietnam theater US Army Nurse Corps.

Ceremony sponsors include The City of Smyrna, Smyrna Veterans Committee, Veterans Memorial Association of Smyrna, American Legion Post 160, Northwest Speakers, Smyrna Rotary Club, Jonquil City Kiwanis, Chick-fil-A of South Cobb, and JWC Real Estate.

The event will be at the Smyrna Veterans Memorial at 2800 King St. (between Smyrna City Hall and the Smyrna Library). The event and parking are free. The rain location is the Smyrna Community Center.

World War I created the notion of America as a superpower. Not because the United States hadn’t previously wars. It had. Not because we hadn’t beaten European powers before. We had.

What changed was that in this war the United States fought against a major, world class adversary, alongside others of the world’s best armies, held its own and was the primary force for victory.

World War I started in August 1914, as France, Germany, Russia, Austria-Hungary, Serbia, the British Empire and others went to war. What was expected to be a quick, decisive war became a long and costly stalemate, where millions died or were wounded.

The United States joined the fight on April 6, 1917. A year passed before the American Expeditionary Forces saw real action. But fight it did: at Seichepry (April 1918), Cantigny (May 1918), Belleau Wood and Chateau Thierry (June and July 1918), St. Mihiel (September 12-15, 1918) and in the large Meuse-Argonne Offensive (September 26 – November 11, 1918) – all in France.

US Air Service (USAS), US Navy (USN) and US Marine Corps (USMC) fought in the skies, while the USN escorted ships and hunted U-boats in the Atlantic. WWI finally ended at 11 a.m.  on November 11, 1918. More than 21 million had died; 11,700 of whom were Americans. Another 21 million from all nations were wounded. Everyone’s life was changed; the world changed.

In all the wars in which America participated, there have been 651,008 battle deaths and about 1.2 million deaths overall. About 42 million of our men and women have served in the military during wartime. About 2 percent (1/50th) of the people serving during a time of war have died.

We are here today for the sole purpose of honoring all who gave their lives in service to America and the defense of freedom.

Police, Fire Set Block Party

A Public Education Block Party will be held May 20 at Cobb Park in Smyrna to bring together first responders and the public for food, fun and music.

Cobb County Police and Smyrna police will be present along with Fire and emergency personnel such as Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), Austell Community Task Force, Animal Control, the Neighborhood Safety Commission and Safe Kids Cobb County.

The event will run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Cobb Park, 2776 Sanford St., Smyrna.

From the May 2017 issue of The Bright Side, Cobb County Georgia’s Newspaper covering Smyrna, Vinings, Mableton, Powder Springs and Austell, GA.

Fans Love New SunTrust Park

Cobb fans reacted positively to the Braves’ new home at SunTrust Park and even report that the expected traffic problems are less than expected.

“The traffic Armageddon didn’t happen as people had predicted,” said District 2 Commission Bob Ott. “It took me just 11 to 15 minutes to get there from my house.”

The park and The Battery drew praise from those who attended the opening game on April 14 as the Braves beat the San Diego Padres 5 to 2. There was a full house on opening night with 41,149 tickets sold.

“The excitement and energy in the Battery was palpable,” said Jodi A. Miller, a Vinings lawyer. “Of course it was the grand opening, but it looks like it’s going to be everything Cobb County and the Braves hoped it would be. Well done, Cobb County! Welcome home Braves!”

MaryJane LeCroy of Smyrna is a season ticket holder and was impressed.

“We thoroughly enjoyed SunTrust Park during opening weekend,” she said. “The ballpark itself has a more intimate feeling with great views. Food and beverage choices are abundant and go far beyond the standard hot dogs, peanuts and Coke. There certainly is something for everyone.”

Ceremonies marked the opening game with nods to the players who have had their numbers retired, a presentation of Jerseys from Braves top staff to County Commissioners and even a military jet flyover. The first pitch was thrown by Hank Aaron to Bobby Cox, just as they had done to close out the team’s run at The Ted.

Traffic was on the minds of fans and officials before and after the game. Even The Governor chimed in.

“You can get there without any real problem, Gov. Nathan Deal said. “We didn’t even have to use the blue lights.”

“So far, there have been no major traffic problems caused by Braves traffic,” said Ron SIfen of Vinings. “There have been some localized spots on Circle 75 Parkway, Windy Ridge Parkway, and Interstate North Parkway where traffic can back up perhaps a tenth of a mile. The interstates and arterials such as Cobb Parkway have not experienced backups due to anything related to the Braves.”

“Many predicted the Cumberland area would be a bad location, and there was not much transit, and traffic would be much worse than traffic at Turner Field. Braves traffic at Turner Field used to back up I-75 for miles, and traffic around the stadium was terrible. So far, the Cobb County location is proving to be a superior location, and is causing dramatically less traffic problems than the downtown Atlanta location.”

Fans packed the Cumberland Connector bus that ran a loop from the Cumberland Transit Station to the ballpark. Many had gotten on at the MARTA Arts Center Station and caught the CobbLinc bus.

Bruce LaBudde of Smyrna caught the Cumberland Connector on Cobb Parkway to the Battery.

“It was fabulous,” he said, noting that he had a long history of Braves games. “I went to the Braves’ opening game in Atlanta with my dad in 1966.”

Ms. Miller said that she was proven wrong about Braves traffic.

“I just couldn’t see how it could work successfully,” she posted on Facebook. “I could not believe how smoothly traffic moved around the stadium (in the opener). At 5:30 the Windy Hill and SunTrust Park exits were clear and moving well. In fact, you hardly would have noticed that there was a home game.”

From the May 2017 issue of The Bright Side, Cobb County Georgia’s Newspaper covering Smyrna, Vinings, Mableton, Powder Springs and Austell, GA.

Celebrate Mableton Day On May 13

The annual Mableton Day celebration is set for May 13 at the Mable House Amphitheatre complex.

“We are excited to kick off the 12th Annual Mableton Day Celebration,” said Albert McRae III, Chairman of the Mableton Day Coalition. “It’s the time of year we meet exciting non-profits, businesses, and volunteers that serve and believe in the Mableton community the same as we do.”

The day kicks off for the Mableton Day 5K & Kid’s Fun Run at 8 a.m. Following the 5K race is the Mableton Jr. 1-mile Fun Run.

5K entries are limited to 500 runners and the Fun Run is set for 100, so make it a priority to register online now. Online registration though May 6 at www.mabletonday.com/5k-race. Race day registration is $35

The day’s festivities continue through 4 p.m.

Entertainment for Mableton Day is full of experienced professional, local and new entertainment, school performances, and special guests. The schedule includes a Salute to the Armed Forces, local awards, and ends with the Community Spirit Awards and Trophy ceremony. Past Mableton Day crowds have enjoyed live bands, cheerleaders, solo performances, Chinese dancers, cloggers, ballet, and melodies of jazz, contemporary, hip hop, country, blues and much more.

Whether jumping on inflatables, testing fitness through hoops, learning safety tips, playing old fashioned games, creating pieces of art work, or just relaxing, the Kids Corner is a fun place for children to play and learn.

Demonstrations by accomplished artists will be presented throughout the day. You can watch a potter turn clay into a cup or bowl. See a landscape emerge from watercolors or charcoal pencils. The artists are happy to talk about their art with visitors.

The 8th Annual Mableton Day Car Cruise-In features classic cars from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. There is registration fee. However, registration is still required, either before the event or on Mableton Day, if space is still available. This show is for fun for everyone with an emphasis on exposing our youth to American automotive history.

For more information on any of these events, email admin@mabletonday.com or call Albert at 678-524-9026.

From the May 2017 issue of The Bright Side, Cobb County Georgia’s Newspaper covering Smyrna, Vinings, Mableton, Powder Springs and Austell, GA.

Candlelite Concerts Planned

The season is set for the 2017 Candlelite Concerts, presented by the South Cobb Arts Alliance at the Mable House Barnes Amphitheatre. Admission is free with plenty of covered seating and room on the lawn, too. Pack a picnic dinner and enjoy an evening of music in one of the best outdoor venues in the metro area.

Tables that seat six people are now on sale for $216 for the entire season or $60 for a single concert. (Sorry, no refunds.) Parking is free for all attendees. Gates open at 7 p.m.; performances begin at 8 p.m.

The line-up for this summer includes:

  • May 20 – Domino, the Van Morrison tribute band.
  • June 17 – Peter Karp and the Roadshow Band, American blues.
  • Aug. 19 – Soulhound, groove-oriented R&B, soul and greasy funk of the late sixties and seventies.
  • Sept. 16 – Red Head Diamond, smooth California-style 70’s rock, such as Linda Ronstadt’s greatest hits, as well as favorites by Fleetwood Mac.

The Amphitheatre is located at 5239 Floyd Road, Mableton. Call 770-819-3285 with any questions or to reserve a table today!

From the April 2017 issue of The Bright Side, Cobb County Georgia’s Newspaper covering Smyrna, Vinings, Mableton, Powder Springs and Austell, GA.

Austell Churches Set Good Friday Service

Want to deepen your Easter Sunday experience this year? Rewind to Good Friday and gather with folks from across our community for the annual Seven Last Words service at Austell Presbyterian Church.

Seven local pastors will share their insights on the last seven words spoken from the cross. This year they include Rev. Michael Martin (Austell First United Methodist), Rev. Clarence Ellerbee (Causey Chapel Baptist Church),Tim Ridgeway (Austell First Baptist), and Rev. Tracy Carter (Bethsaida Baptist Church). Also preaching will be Rev. Debra Stewart (Smith Chapel United Methodist), Rev. Malcom Lewis (Beacon Hill Baptist Church) and Rev. Spencer Haygood (Orange Hill Baptist Church).

It begins at 12 noon and continues until 3 p.m. on April 14. This special service (presented in partnership with Sweetwater Mission), is designed so you may come and go or stay for the entire three hours.

Austell Presbyterian Church is located at 5895 Love St. in Austell. Call 770-948-2822 for more information.

From the April 2017 issue of The Bright Side, Cobb County Georgia’s Newspaper covering Smyrna, Vinings, Mableton, Powder Springs and Austell, GA.

Theatre Project Presents ‘Joseph and The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat’

Anderson Rothwell of Roswell plays the part of Joseph in the Theater Project presentation.

“Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” will be presented by The Theatre Project this spring at the Mable House Amphitheatre.

This high-energy musical, written by Andrew Lloyd Webber, is based on the coat of many colors story of Joseph from the Old Testament. The play follows Joseph, the father’s favored son; as he is sold into slavery by his jealous brother and taken to Egypt where he becomes second in command to Pharaoh and eventually reunites his family.

The musical journey is a kaleidoscope of colorful dance numbers and memorable music.
Performances for “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” are scheduled for Friday, April 21 at 7 p.m.; Saturday April 22 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.; Sunday April 23 at 5 p.m. at the Mable House Barnes Amphitheatre, 5239 Floyd Road, Mableton.

Advance tickets are $8 per adult 13 years and older general admission, and $60 per table (6 seat limit). Children 12 and under are Free. Tickets can be purchased from Ticketmaster.com, the Mable House Arts Center or the Amphitheatre Box Office. For more information please call 770-819-3285.

From the April 2017 issue of The Bright Side, Cobb County Georgia’s Newspaper covering Smyrna, Vinings, Mableton, Powder Springs and Austell, GA.