Aidan McClure

Principal Erin Kadera, D’anne McDaniel, Aidan McClure and Kimberly McClure.

Eighth-grader Aidan McClure has no shortage of brilliant ideas in the realm of science and space.

That imagination earned Aidan a spot as a semifinalist in the Artemis Moon Pod Essay Contest, a collaborative effort between NASA and the Future Engineers program.

This organization hosts online innovative experiments for K-12 students and Aidan was the sole winner in the 5th-8th grade category in Arizona. 

The essay contest challenges students to create a hypothetical one-week expedition to the moon’s south pole. The competition was inspired by the Artemis Space Project, an endeavor by NASA to return astronauts to the moon by 2024. Artemis will allow humans to explore more of the moon’s surface and includes building a lunar orbit space station which will eventually be a habitable base for exploration to Mars.

Participants must write about the challenges and opportunities of exploring the moon and the usefulness of the proposed science or technology left there. Essays were judged on their originality and innovation of the ideas presented. The prize for semifinalist winners was an invitation to represent their state in a series of Artemis Explorer virtual sessions with NASA experts.

“I was very excited about winning,” Aidan said. “I had a lot of fun brainstorming, and I thought the idea of setting up a base sounded exciting. If we explore other planets, it’s important to have a base on the moon.”

Aidan’s essay explained the significance of Earth’s teams leaving a transmitter to send signals.

“I’d want a pilot who performed well under pressure and was good with communication,” he said. “In addition, our team would need a science officer and a deputy to monitor supplies and drive the rover. Plus, we’d need a module pilot who stays in lunar orbit.”

 Aidan received local recognition for his essay as well. His school celebrated his accomplishment by recognizing him at a Scottsdale School Board meeting in April. He also received a Challenge Coin, which is given to students who exhibit extraordinary achievements in the district.

“Aidan pushed himself beyond his expectations,” Ingleside Interim Principal Erin Kadera said. “We are all super proud of him.”

Aidan is in the comprehensive gifted program in science and is always excited and eager to learn new things, according to science teacher D’anne McDaniel.

“He used a variety of critical thinking skills, plus past accumulated knowledge when he created his essay,” she said. “He’s quiet, creative and thinks outside the box. He also travels a lot, which helps him apply knowledge to new situations. I could see him being a scientist in the future.”

Aidan said he is open to all possibilities. “I think it would be cool to work for NASA, but I’m not sure at this point,” he said.