• Woody Hoburg

    May 25, 2023

    Students talk with astronaut Woody Hoburg

    USC astronautWatch a video recording of the event on uscsd.tv

    Upper St. Clair students had the opportunity to participate in a LIVE video call with astronaut Woody Hoburg, who is currently aboard the International Space Station. The event, which was available district-wide via live stream, took place at 1:10 p.m. on Tuesday, May 23, 2023. 

    Woody Hoburg serves as the pilot of NASA’s SpaceX Crew-6 mission, which launched on March 2, 2023. He and his crew are scheduled to return to Earth in August. The event was spearheaded by Tracy Smith, USCHS robotics teacher, and Russ Hoburg, Woody's brother and USCHS chemistry teacher, with assistance and support from the district’s technology department and curriculum leaders. 

    A group of 15 students – representing all grade levels and all six Upper St. Clair schools – gathered in the district’s administration building to ask a variety of questions. Junior Reese Copenhaver served as the event’s host and facilitated questions from each of the students and from Mr. Russ Hoburg.

    Reese collaborated with Mr. Russ Hoburg to develop and submit a design for the Crew-6 mission patch. Every launch features a unique patch specific to the mission. Crew members typically create a basic design, which is refined by a graphic artist into a usable patch. While Reese’s design was not used for the mission patch, it is featured on the pink T-shirts worn by Woody and Mr. Russ Hoburg and Reese during the broadcast.

    “When Woody came on screen wearing the same shirt as Mr. Hoburg and me, I was absolutely shocked,” Reese said. “I had drawn the shirt concept as a joke when Mr. Hoburg and I were designing mission logos/patches last year. I knew they thought the design was funny and had made shirts (because I was given one), but I didn't realize that Woody had brought his to space with him. It made me really proud that he liked my design enough to bring it up in his very limited personal cargo space.”

    Reese has always been interested in space and is fascinated by the concept of space exploration.

    “Besides being very interested in all-things space, Reese was a perfect student to plan and emcee the event due to her passion, dedication, attention to detail and professionalism,” Mrs. Smith said.

    Reese & Mr. Russ HoburgHosting a live broadcast with the International Space Station was an incredible experience for all involved. Mrs. Smith was particularly excited that the event was available district-wide for all students, teachers and families to enjoy.

    “We were having a live conversation with someone in the International Space Station! That in and of itself is surreal,” she said. “Our community had the opportunity to experience it together. It is truly significant to be able to connect students throughout the district with a common thread. This was an ageless experience. It didn’t matter if you were a kindergartener or a veteran teacher; the excitement and impact reached everyone.”

    While the broadcast went smoothly and according to plan, the behind-the-scenes logistics for the technology department were a heavy lift. In addition, curriculum leaders and teachers developed corresponding resources and learning opportunities to enrich the experience.  

    “It took collaboration between so many different people on our side and NASA’s to pull this off without a hiccup,” Mrs. Smith said. “Upper St Clair School District is full of professionals who take pride in making this place the best it can be for students. Because of that, we were able to work as a team to pull off this once in a lifetime event.”

    Woody HoburgMrs. Smith hopes that students look at Woody Hoburg and realize that doing things, like becoming an astronaut, is not out of reach for them. 

    “Woody is an authentic person who has followed his passion throughout all avenues of life - academics, sports, hobbies, etc. I want students to realize that if they work hard and continually engage in things that interest them, it can lead them to adventures in life that are beyond imaginable,” she said. “I don’t expect all students to aspire to be an astronaut. Woody’s story goes more to the core of being true to yourself and passionately taking action to follow your dreams. That is really what I hope students take away from the event.”

    The Upper St. Clair community’s enthusiasm for the NASA event was evident. Lots of teachers and students wore NASA or space-related shirts and hats. One Streams Elementary student even arrived to school dressed as an astronaut.

    “To be involved in something that can have a positive impact on so many people is very rewarding,” Mrs. Smith said. “Sometimes it takes a large-scale event like this to realize that your passion and hard work can positively affect the lives of others. It has reminded me of my purpose and rejuvenated me to continue to find ways to inspire and educate.”

    Watch a video recording of the event on uscsd.tv

    Additional resources

    If our live communication with Woody Hoburg sparked an interest in you or your child, take it a little further!  Access resources from NASA, go star gazing at a local observatory (Allegheny Observatory, Buhl Planetarium, Amateur Astronomers Association of Pittsburgh), visit the Moonshot Museum, enroll in a workshop at the Citizen Science Lab, check out the Mars exhibit at the Carnegie Science Center, explore resources at your local library, or reach out to a passionate educator for more ideas – just don’t let this spark fade.