Red Cloud fourth grader heads to Space & Robotics Camp in Alabama

posted on June 19, 2012

Tano Fillspipe-Rodriguez, a fourth grader at Red Cloud Elementary, was recently awarded a Spencer Proffer Scholarship to attend a Space & Robotics Camp next month at the US Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

This highly competitive scholarship was offered to twelve students of Native American origin. Tano submitted a 30-second video, spoken in Lakota (with subtitles), telling who he was and why he deserved this opportunity. The scholarship will provide full tuition, room and board, and some lab fees.

Tano was one of seven students selected from the United States, the other five awardees being from Canada. He is the only Oglala Lakota individual to have received this prestigious award.

We caught up with Tano as he counts down the days to his departure for Huntsville – only five weeks away! He was able to take time of to answer some interview questions:

1. Why did you want to participate in the Space & Robotics Camp - what aspects interested you the most? How did you find out about it in the first place?

“My big sister Gabby (RCHS Junior) and my brother Bishop (RCMS 8th grader) used to go to NASA camps at our old school. Even though I was only in kindergarten, I really wanted to go, but their teachers said I had to wait till I was fifth grade. I always liked space and the stars and wanted to learn more about them. I always looked for space camps. The scholarship link said ‘space camp’, but when I got accepted, they gave me a chance to choose between Space Camp, Space & Robotics, or Space & Aviation. I picked Space & Robotics because I love robots and want to learn more about them and how to program them.”

2. How did you find out about the Spencer Proffer Scholarship?

“My mom's friend emailed the link to her. He knew how much I love space and always wanted to go to a space camp. The Spencer Proffer Scholarship is awarded to 25 students, with 12 reserved for Aboriginal Canadian and/or Native American students between the ages of 9-11 who have a passion for space, exploring, learning and leadership.”

3. What are the dates of the camp? What all will you get to do?

“The Space & Robotics camp runs from July 22-July 27, 2012. I will get the chance to ‘rescue’ astronauts from the International Space Station; work to design and program the ultimate robot; do simulations and space missions; do some robotics, designing and engineering; work on teamwork; take part in the LEGOS Robotics Competition; and do some astronaut simulations."

4. What are you most excited about?

“The whole trip, especially getting to go on a plane. I've never been on a plane before. I'm looking forward to working on the robots and doing the LEGO competition. And we get the chance to be an extra in a major family-oriented feature film about Space Camp."

5. What are you most nervous about?

“The plane ride…I've never been on a plane. I'm going by myself and I'm not going to know anybody on the planes. I have to fly from Rapid City to Chicago to Alabama, and on the return trip from Alabama to Denver to Rapid City. But I'm supposed to have someone assigned to watch me on the planes so I should be okay.”

6. What do you hope to bring back from this experience and share with the Red Cloud School community?

“I hope I get to bring back one of the robots or LEGO projects that I worked on, so I could show and tell my class what I did this summer. Or at least I could take pictures of what I did. I hope next year more Red Cloud kids could go. I think it would've been fun to take someone from my school with me.”

7. What are your future plans / what you want to be when you grow up?

"I hope I get the opportunity to go back there again next year. I want to try the Space Camp where I would get to try shuttle missions, Mars Mission, history, experiments, astronaut simulators and Constellation program-based activities. If I get back in, I want to talk about what the stars mean to the Lakota and share our stories. When I grow up, I want to go into engineering and work in aeronautics. I saw a picture of a Lakota man that works there now. I want to be the next Oglala Lakota to work for NASA.”

8. Is there anything else you would like to say?

“I want to thank Oglala Council Representative Valerie Janis and the Oglala Sioux Tribe Finance Committee for donating funds for my lab fees and other expenses, and also OST Treasurer Mason Big Crow for purchasing my plane ticket to Alabama. Finally, I want to thank my uncle, Matt Rama, for helping me with my application video.”

Red Cloud wishes Tano congratulations and safe travels!

For more information on Space Camp, go HERE.

For more information about the Spencer Proffer scholarships, go HERE.