Though Duncan Weisbrod might not want to be a fighter pilot when he's older, he did get to train like one recently.
The junior at was one of 254 students from 30 countries and 30 U.S. states who earlier this month attended the 2012 Honeywell Leadership Challenge Academy at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Ala.
The week-long camp emphasized hands-on, team-based activities in science, technology and engineering. Weisbrod and the other students participated in simulated jet-fighter pilot training, scenario-based space missions and other fun challenges.
St. Louis Park Patch recently caught up with Weisbrod to chat about his experience at the academy, as well as what's next for this bright student.
St. Louis Park Patch: What was your favorite part of the trip?
Duncan Weisbrod: Meeting the people there. I got to meet people from around the world. There was somebody from Britain, three boys from France, and a person from Austria and a person from Hungary.
St. Louis Park Patch: Do you want to be an astronaut someday, or something related to that?
Weisbrod: I want to be an electrical or mechanical engineer, so it is in that field.
St. Louis Park Patch: What do you like about engineering?
Weisbrod: I like being able to make stuff, and I’ve always been interested in electronics and how they work.
St. Louis Park Patch: Is there anything that you’ve ever been particularly proud of that you made or worked on?
Weisbrod: At school, we have the robotics team. Every year, we compete, and it’s always a good feeling to finish the robot.
St. Louis Park Patch: How long have you been on the robotics team?
Weisbrod: Ever since I was a freshman. The year I got in as a freshman was the second year of our team, so it was fairly new.
St. Louis Park Patch: You did fighter-pilot training, right? What was that like?
Weisbrod: There were like mock cockpits you sat in that had computers. It had all the switches all around, and it was a mock F-18. That was really fun, because they had us go on an actual mission where you had to escort Air Force One out of the area and destroy a military base. And then they just put us all against each other, and that was fun shooting each other out of the sky.
St. Louis Park Patch: What were some of the other training exercises that you did?
Weisbrod: We had something called Area 51, which was just a bunch of team physical exercises. Like, there was a net of cables, and you had to all lift each other through and get across it without touching the nets. And once you went through a hole, you couldn’t go back. It was a lot of deciding who on your team you wanted to send through which hole. Just a lot of team building activities.
St. Louis Park Patch: I know when people train for high-intensity flight, they can lose their lunch. Did you ever get sick?
Weisbrod: No, (but) we did a couple of (high-intensity) things. We had two amusement park rides, like the one that shoots you up and you kind of bounce back down. Then they had the one where you stand in a room and you spin. Those both exert g-force on you, but neither get you really sick. And then they had a multiple-access, “twister” thing, where you sit in it and turn around in every direction. My team leader said no one’s ever thrown up on it. Then the last one we did is the actual g-force machine they use in the military, that spins you around. They only brought us to 3.2 Gs, and you didn’t really get sick at that point.
St. Louis Park Patch: Was anyone else a bit green in the face afterward?
Weisbrod: No, but if you moved your head around in it you’d get a little dizzy.
St. Louis Park Patch: Outside of engineering and robotics, what are some of your other hobbies?
Weisbrod: I do a lot of computer gaming, so I enjoy that. I do cross-country mountain biking in the summer and snowboarding in the winter, although this winter hasn’t really been winter.
St. Louis Park Patch: Have you thought at all about college?
Weisbrod: I have looked at some colleges. I’ve visited the U of M, and I’m going to go visit some colleges over spring break. I’m just starting to look around and see what’s out there and what I can do.
St. Louis Park Patch: Going to major in engineering? Mathematics?
Weisbrod: I’m thinking electrical engineering.
St. Louis Park Patch: Anything else that really stood out from your trip?
Weisbrod: I think the biggest thing was just meeting people from around the world, and getting different perspectives from different areas.
St. Louis Park Patch: Did you learn some things about other cultures that you didn’t know?
Weisbrod: Yeah, like in America, how we say we’re ticked off, in Canada, they say they’re "cheesed."
St. Louis Park Patch: That’s good to know. Are you using that at school now?
Weisbrod: Yeah, we’re joking about it.