The Ottawa Carleton Educational Space Simulation (OCESS), informally known as Spacesim, is a student-run non-profit organization and high school club, based out of the 440 Albert St Education Center (with mission control facilities at Lisgar Collegiate Institute). The OCESS is dedicated to educating students of all ages about space and science, as well as fostering a love and respect of the "final frontier."
OCESS has existed in its various forms for over 25 years, and has completed 26 missions to date. The Ottawa chapter of Spacesim was founded in 1988, by long time Lisgar science teacher Terry Pritchett. He went on to oversee Spacesim for 8 years, winning the Prime Minister's Award for Teaching excellence in 1995 for his dedication to the program. Current head of Spacesim, Jim Magwood, has held the position since 2001.
Each year, Spacesim members take part in a 5 day long mission to a selected destination. This typically occurs in February, during reading week. During the Mission, six members fill the roles of astronauts, spending the entire 5 days living within the Habitat (Spacesim's model spacecraft, located in our room at 440 Albert Street). During this time, the astronauts receive guidance and instruction from Mission Control. Simulators bring a heightened level of realism to the Mission, by simulating situations the astronauts might actually have to face were they really in space. These can range from biocontaminants, to solar flares, to micrometeor collisions. Spacesim alumni also frequently take part, helping to supervise, and sharing their experience.
Months of thorough planning and work go into this event. Simulators thoroughly research the chosen destination, and then design, and construct a planetary surface similar to what we could expect to see if we were actually able to travel there. Astronauts explore and collect samples from the planetary surface during the Mission. Astronauts and Mission Control train for the Mission by running mini-missions in the preceding months, develop a mission timeline, flight paths, and decide upon what types of experiments to perform.
Elementary Education Programs (EEPs) make up much of Spacesim's educational outreach, whereby members give highly interactive presentations to elementary age children, demonstrating principles of astronomy, Newtonian physics, and space travel. Planetarium presentations involve a large inflatable dome in which a up to 35 students (depending on age) can watch projections of the night sky and presenations on identifying specific stars and constellations as well as lessons on general astronomy. The presentations are brought to schools and community groups with presentations tailored for students from grades 1 to 9.