Ethan Warren is ready to take the next steps – especially when it comes to his passion for computer science and space exploration. Warren, a blind Grade 12 student in his fifth year at Elmira District Secondary School (EDSS), recently attended the Space Camp for Interested Visually Impaired Students at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

The experience allowed him to connect with like minded peers and professionals, while taking part in simulated space exploration missions. Warren explained the opportunity allowed him to make new connections while learning more about the boundless nature of space.

“I networked with a lot of interesting people and gained a greater appreciation for the vastness of the universe,” said Warren.

As he reflected on his experience, the simulated missions stood out as his favourite part. For one of these missions, he took the controls on the simulated flight deck as the shuttle commander. He was blown away by how realistic the simulation was for those taking part.

“It was amazing. It was an exact replica of the shuttle flight deck,” said Warren. “Every button and switch from the Space Shuttle was recreated to perfection.”

The final simulated mission lasted three hours, and required the students involved to coordinate between Mission Control, the Space Shuttle, and the International Space Station. They launched the shuttle, flew it up to the space station, exchanged crews and flew it back down to Earth.

At each step, Warren explained they were following detailed realistic procedures to ensure the success of their mission. Collaboration was key, and was one of his key takeaways from this experience.

“Teamwork was essential to success,” said Warren.

Apart from the simulated missions, one other experience really stood out for Ethan: a special planetarium show designed especially for the students taking part in this space camp, featuring the sounds of the universe.

“One of my favourite ones was probably the simplest,” said Warren. “It was just the wind of Mars heard through the microphone of one of the rovers. It’s just haunting.”

Warren has taken what he learned about the power of collaboration and teamwork and continues to apply it in his co-operative education placement at the University of Waterloo (UW) in the Computer Science Computing Facility (CSCF) for the Computer Science department.

He’s enjoyed the opportunity to immerse himself in the culture and environment of computer science, and build connections with professionals who work in this field every day. More recently, he was called upon to help address a challenge some students were experiencing with their online course folders.

“They had a problem and they asked me if I could write a program to fix it,” said Warren. “Students at the University of Waterloo will be able to use the tools that I’ve written.”

For Warren, who hopes to one day be a professor of computer science, this experience has been priceless in helping him prepare for his post-secondary pathway. He has applied to the UW Computer Science program, feeling better prepared thanks to the opportunities provided by his co-op placement. He wholeheartedly recommends it for any students who are beginning to look at next steps on their learning pathways.

“If you have any idea of what you want to do as a career, give it a shot,” said Warren.

As he took a moment to contemplate the experiences that have brought him here, Warren shared his eagerness to embark upon his post-secondary learning journey.

“I finally feel like I’m actually ready to take that next step,” said Warren. “I’m looking forward to it.”