The snag in Emily Paul’s interstellar plan is her fear of darkness.

“Once I get past those fears, I’ll be fine,” the  Clearwater Central Catholic senior joked. “I could for sure be an astronaut.”

Dressed in her bright blue jumpsuit, with the official looking NASA patches on the sleeves and her name tag on the front, Paul stood out in the crowd of classmates dressed in signature CCC red.

Except for her friend, Nadine Kallay.

“Even if you just look up now, you can only see half of it,” said the junior. “It’s just so big and so infinite. It’s just kind of how can you not pay attention to it.”

Both girls, along with Keswick Christian School student Annie Glode, attended a prestigious space camp for kids from around the world this spring. They, along with some of the brightest teenage minds in the world, traveled to Huntsville, Ala. to learn what it takes to become a space traveler.

“It’s like driver’s (education) with a much higher intelligence level,” Glode said with a smile when describing the space shuttle flight simulator.

The three Pinellas County students experienced what it was like to build rockets, fly space shuttles and what it was like to feel weightless. They also built rockets and developed computer programs to calculate their rocket’s altitude and velocity.

“The ground is fun,” said Paul. “Floating for a long time is kind of scary.”

The Honeywell Leadership Challenge Academy brought in hundreds of kids from 45 countries spread across the globe to learn what it takes to get to space.

“It was a blast, no pun intended,” said Glode with a quirky smile. “Outside of our solar system we don’t know very much, so I think it would be pretty cool to go out and see other galaxies someday.”

Glode is interested in a career in either computer engineering or animation. Kallay and Paul, whose respective parents work at Honeywell as engineers, are hoping for careers related to space as well.

“We had a speech by an astronaut and I was like I have to go to space after seeing those pictures,” said Paul, who plans to attend the University of Central Florida in the fall.

Her classmate agrees.

“I’ve been looking into chemical engineering but aerospace engineering is also a possibility,” said Kallay.

Stats about the Honeywell Leadership Academy Challenge for 2017:

  • The student was among 320 students globally (320 students from 45 countries and 27 U.S. states and territories) accepted into Honeywell Leadership Academy Challenge for 2017.
  • The Academy is a unique scholarship program developed in partnership with the U.S. Space & Rocket Center (USSRC) that uses interactive technology and science-oriented workshops and team exercises to teach high school students leadership skills in science, technology, engineering, and math, or ‘STEM’.
  • The week-long program runs twice from February 25 to March 10, 2017, at the USSRC in Huntsville, Ala., and is open to all students, ages 16-18, of current full-time Honeywell employees.
  • Each year, several hundred students apply for admission to one of the two week-long sessions. The sessions run consecutively. Entry into the program is granted after a rigorous application and review process based on academic achievement and community involvement.
  • Since its launch in 2010, Honeywell, in partnership with the USSRC, has awarded more than 2,090 scholarships to students to attend space camp.