Sparta High School students undergo astronaut training

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  • Courtesy Honeywell and Hector Barreto Matt Rotondi.

  • Courtesy Honeywell and Hector Barreto Jason Reinhard.

  • Courtesy Honeywell and Hector Barreto Jason Reinhard.

  • Courtesy Honeywell and Hector Barreto Matt Rotondi.

Most high school students get in trouble if they space out for an entire week.

Not so for Sparta High School students Matthew Rotundi and Jason Reinhard, who joined peers from 33 states and 38 countries at this year’s Honeywell Leadership Challenge Academy (HLCA) at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Ala. from March 1 through 7.

“This is an opportunity that most high school kids don’t get,” said Matthew, a junior at SHS and hopeful future engineer, before attending the week-long program.

Throughout the week, the HLCA used interactive technology, science-oriented workshops and team exercises to teach participants leadership skills in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). The participants were made up of children of Honeywell employees between 16 and 18 years old who meet both academic and community involvement standards. They met with scientists, engineers and former astronauts who taught from first-hand professional experiences.

With space shuttle and jet-fighter simulations, debates, and idea exploration, Matthew said the camp went “above and beyond” his expectations.

The biggest lesson he took away from the program is the importance of communication, which he said “will make or break your group.” During the jet-fighter simulation, for example, Matthew said the volume level didn’t allow his group to communicate effectively, which led to a less than stellar result.

“If we had communicated better, we would have been successful,” he said.

About the Academy
“Our goal is to continue to develop a new generation of leaders, engineers and scientists who can address the challenges of tomorrow,” said Tom Buckmaster, President of Honeywell Hometown Solutions, the company’s global corporate citizenship initiative. “Honeywell Leadership Challenge Academy is a holistic program that uses a variety of teaching methods to open students’ minds to the many possibilities for rewarding careers.”

While Matthew is still unsure of exactly what career path he wants to follow, the HLCA reinforced his love for engineering and introduced him to dozens of likeminded teens.

One of Matthew’s highlights was “forming some great friendships” with kids from all over the world.

“It was great to work in a workforce type atmosphere with such a diverse group of people,” he said.

For more information about the HLCA, visit

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