Manassas Journal Messenger | Forest Park student heads to Russia

Forest Park senior Erin Dale will board a plane to Russia today.

Dale, 17, is one of five Virginia students who will spend 10 days in Korolev, Russia, to compete in the International Space Olympics, an annual competition which draws high school students from throughout the world.

“Besides the fact that it’s supposed to be really cold and I hear the food’s not that good, I’m excited,” Dale said in a phone interview last week. “I’m excited to go and experience a totally different culture.”

To qualify for the Space Olympics program, Dale completed a rigorous application process, which included preparing a research project to be presented in front of Russian cosmonauts and scientists.

Dale’s project focuses on the benefits of improved hurricane forecasting using NASA satellite imagery.

She did the research for her project while attending Governor’s School last summer, she said.

She said she’s just a little nervous about presenting her project in front of the cosmonauts and other judges at the Space Olympics.

“I’m a little nervous to present it because it’s going to be translated as I speak, so I think that will be a little weird,” she said.

Dale and the other participants will also spend three days taking tests in math, physics and literature.

The rest of the time will be spent visiting sites around Moscow.

Dale became interested in the Space Olympics program after two Russian cosmonauts visited Forest Park last year to speak about their experiences and the program, she said.

This year, students and teachers throughout Prince William County and the state of Virginia will be able to follow the travels of Dale and the four other Virginia students participating in the Space Olympics through the WorldNet Virginia Web site.

The site, operated by Prince William County Public Schools’ Media Production Services Department and funded by the Virginia Department of Education, includes an itinerary and background information about the trip.

“Each of the students going … will be writing journals about everything that they do. I’ll be putting those up there and I’ll be putting up pictures to go along with the journals,” said Ben Swecker, supervisor of media production services, who will be accompanying the students on the trip.

“There’s also a discussion board for parents and friends to leave notes that the students can read,” he said.

This is fourth time the site has followed students’ trips to the Space Olympics. The site also contains information about teachers’ past trips to Peru, Egypt, Turkey, Germany and Israel.

This year the Web site will also include video clips of the students’ experiences, Swecker said.

As of Monday afternoon, more than 450 teachers, students and others had registered on the site to follow the Russia trip, he said.

To follow Dale’s journey, visit

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