June 28, 2019 8:34 pm
Updated: July 3, 2019 10:50 am

Stollery kid heading to NASA-inspired Space Camp

Delaney Kilgour is about to be the first Indigenous child to head to NASA's space camp.

Supplied: Karen Young
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EDITOR’S NOTE: Global News originally reported that Kilgour was the first Indigenous student to attend this program, however, we have been unable to verify if that is the case. The U.S. Space & Rocket Center, home to Space Camp, Aviation Challenge and Space Camp Robotics, is the official visitor centre for NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center and has an unofficial partnership with NASA. Global News has updated this article to clarify that information.

For 12-year-old Delaney Kilgour, it all started with Lego.

The outpatient at the Stollery Children’s Hospital, born with a heart condition, would spend hours tinkering and building.

“Through the years, we’d buy him Lego to entertain himself because he couldn’t run or do any vigorous exercise [due to his condition],” Kilgour’s grandma and guardian, Karen Young, explained.

A Lego creation made from scratch by Delaney

Courtesy: Karen Young

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One of his nurses spotted his keen eye for building.

“He’s really bright. He was tested at school and he’s reading at a grade 11 level,” said Young. “The nurse told us she had heard of a program focused on engineering and robotics through the University of Toronto. So we collected bottles to raise money and he went to that summer camp.”

READ MORE: Sask. robotics team looking for sponsorship to join international competition

At the camp, he learned of the The U.S. Space & Rocket Center, home to Space Camp, Aviation Challenge and Space Camp Robotics. It is also the official visitor center for NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center and part of an unofficial NASA partnership. Co-ordinators asked Young if he could be registered for the program.

“I asked what it cost, and they said it’s quite expensive, but he’s very knowledgeable [and he should go]. We filled out the application and we were told there’s just a slim chance people ever get in. We never had our hopes up or anything,” Young said.

On Dec. 8, 2018, Delaney found out he had been welcomed to attend the summer camp for both Aviation Challenge and Space Camp Robotics.

READ MORE: Earning badges through robotics, Girl Guides learning about careers in STEM

“He’s very good at math, science and he’s always developing different things. He is an incredible child,” Young said. “He built Niagara Falls with Lego, the Taj Mahal, Big Ben — all by scratch. Just by looking at pictures.”

“[When I found out he was going to attend], I just started to cry. That’s a big honour,” Young said. “I asked him ‘what do you want to get out of this?’ He said ‘if I could encourage a classmate not to quit school, no matter how hard things are, that would be amazing. There’s always a next step.'”

Young said Delaney lost a friend, just a year younger than him, to suicide.

“These last couple of months have been very up and down for us. I never expected him to get this far and this high with us. I don’t know what to say. I’m very, very proud of him,” Young said.

READ MORE: Alberta students display their engineering ability with Lego

Delaney collected bottles, supervised recess for $2.50 and looked after pets — saving up for his spot in the program.

“We put that money away. We had to pay for tuition… to secure the seat and when it was due, he had enough money in his bank account to do that,” Young said. “We are still struggling for his summer camp. We’re looking at $10,000 [for travel, parent lodging and food]. We still have $4,000 to go, and we’ve got three weeks.”

Beaver Lake Cree Nation is rallying to help the family raise the final funds.

“Everybody I know is excited. Even people I barely know. They say ‘cool, you’re going to space camp. Congratulations!” Delaney said.

A robot that Delaney built

Courtesy: Karen Young

“If we collect more than what is needed, I’ll put it in a savings account so we can continue even next year with his schooling. He wants to go to Harvard or UCLA because they have an excellent robotics program,” Young said.

Delaney already has big plans to help those close to him. One of Young’s friends, Eileen Beaver, lost her leg to diabetes and found it difficult to go outside in the winter, due to the iron in the prosthetic making it hard to walk.

“I’d like to build robotic arms and legs for people who lost them to diabetes,” he explained. “I’m going to build [my auntie Eileen] a robotic leg so she can walk. It will be controlled by her mind. I’m going to ask my engineering friends to help me.”

On Saturday, he will be honoured at the Beaver Lake First Nations Pow Wow.

“They’re honouring him with an honour song and a Blanket Dance, which is the highest honour you can receive in any First Nations community in Canada,” Young said. “He wants to encourage young people and youth to continue their education.”

If you’d like to help the family reach their goal, , you can contact scanie@telus.net.

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