Campus connections allow students "To Touch the Moon"

The Iowa Space Grant Consortum's tour.

Almost 50 years ago, millions of people across the globe watched from their televisions as astronaut Neil Armstrong walked on the moon—a landmark achievement of human ambition that gave way to those immortal words: “That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

Gretta Berghammer, a professor of theatre at UNI, is developing “To Touch the Moon,” a first-of-its-kind immersive theatre production for youth on the spectrum that will debut next spring. Berghammer is founder of the Spectrum Theater for kids on and off the Autism Spectrum.

Berghammer, a recognized autism educator, hopes to re-imagine that experience for a new generation.“What's different about immersion theatre is that the lines between actor and audience get blurred,” she explained. “So you're not just passively watching and occasionally getting up and doing something. You become a character from the moment you enter the theatre.”

To get the experience right, Berghammer used UNI's connections with the Iowa Space Grant Consortium to travel with other UNI students, faculty and staff to NASA centers in Alabama and Texas. They toured laboratories and met with NASA officials to learn more about the challenges faced by the Apollo 11 mission and compare the 1960's technology of the Apollo era to current technology needed for missions to Mars and beyond.

The Iowa Space Grant Consortium's (ISGC) goal is to inspire Iowa's future in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Providing funding to enable Berghammer to help students “To Touch the Moon,” is one of many ways UNI partners with ISGC to inspire all Iowans.

To learn more about ISGC, visit www.iaspacegrant.org.