It wasn’t exactly storm troopers and light sabers, but the air certainly was buzzing with all things space and flying Saturday at UND.

Hundreds of kids of all ages spent time wandering the UND campus and each of the John D. Odegard School of Aerospace and Atmospheric Sciences buildings as a part of the school’s third annual Community Day.

Ty Johnson, 5, tries on a helmet meant to replicate an astronaut's helmet in space during the third annual Aerospace Community Day on Saturday, Feb. 8. (Sydney Mook / Grand Forks Herald)
Ty Johnson, 5, tries on a helmet meant to replicate an astronaut's helmet in space during the third annual Aerospace Community Day on Saturday, Feb. 8. (Sydney Mook / Grand Forks Herald)

David Cason, an associate professor at UND, brought 3-year-old son Collier to the festivities. It was Collier’s first Aerospace Community Day.

“He’s almost 4 and we thought he might enjoy it,” Cason said as Collier was tugging on his arm, ready to get to the next station. “He said, ‘is it going to be stuff like Star Wars?’ and I said, ‘Well, kind of.’ He might be a little disappointed because he doesn’t see any Darth Vaders here.”

WDAY logo
listen live
watch live

But even without the Darth Vaders and light sabers, the family had a lot of fun Saturday morning.

“He’s enjoying himself,” Cason said with a grin.

Families had a chance to experience all aspects of the aerospace school. Kids could stamp their “passports” and fly a virtual airplane in the school’s new virtual reality flight simulator, or they could take a whirl at flying a drone through an obstacle course. Other activities included strapping on a helmet like a real astronaut or learning how to become an air traffic controller in the school’s training center, as well as standing in front of the blue screen and learning what it’s like to be a weather person on television.

Zak Schuschke, 8, gives the UND virtual reality flight simulator a try during the third annual Aerospace Community Day on Saturday, Feb. 8. (Sydney Mook / Grand Forks Herald)
Zak Schuschke, 8, gives the UND virtual reality flight simulator a try during the third annual Aerospace Community Day on Saturday, Feb. 8. (Sydney Mook / Grand Forks Herald)

Out at Grand Forks International Airport, kids had the chance to check out the school’s helicopters and airplanes and also to see the Doppler on Wheels, on loan from the Centers for Severe Weather Research in Colorado. The DOW is being used for research conducted at UND.

Last year’s event drew around 3,000 people and numbers Saturday morning indicated another large turnout, Beth Bjerke, associate dean of the aerospace school, said.

Bjerke said it takes about 200 volunteers, including students and staff, to put on the day, which is meant to serve as an opportunity for kids and groups to be able to tour the school. Multiple airlines, including Delta and Sun Country, also were on hand.

“This has proven to be a great way for us to open our doors and invite the public to learn about what’s happening at UND, all while giving them hands-on aerospace experiences,” Bjerke said prior to Saturday’s event.