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“This fall, students at Stony Brook School competed for a chance to fly an experiment to the International Space Station, as part of the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP). Since September, they have been engaged in lessons on microgravity and experiment design, while writing real scientific research proposals that answer the question, “What physical, chemical, or biological system would I like to explore with gravity seemingly turned off for a period of time, as a means of assessing the role of gravity in that system?” Of the 60 proposals submitted by teams of students in grades 6-8, a local review board of educators and scientists has selected three finalists.
The first finalist experiment, Mung Beans in Space, was submitted by seventh grade students, Elizabeth K. Bellomy, Antony S. Khvesiuk, Nate J. Li, Keene J. Park, and Brian A. Podolskiy.
The second finalist experiment, How Does Brassica Napus (rapeseed) Germinate in Microgravity? was submitted by sixth grade students, Erin Cassidy, Makayla Cassie, Anvita Damera, Grace Hinkle, and Hradini Shinde.
The third finalist experiment, Can Lavender Germinate in Microgravity? was submitted by sixth grade students, Julia Zhou, Josephine Hoyt, Edward Hibour, and Ganajit Bhat.
The three finalist proposals are now in the hands of the National Step 2 Review Board, conducted by the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education, which will evaluate them and make a final choice by mid-December, determining which experiment will be sent up into space and conducted by astronauts aboard the International Space Station.
The team of winning students will also have the chance to present their experiment and report preliminary results at the SSEP National Conference at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C. during the summer of 2020.
Educators Mindy Schnare, Jennifer Masterson, and Jennifer Twitchell helped to secure the $25,000 needed in funding for the project, with the help of local community partners and sponsors, including state Rep. Jim Arciero. They worked in collaboration with a dedicated group of teachers at Stony Brook, including Sandra Femino, Amity Baldwin, Karen Giannasca, Joe Barnas, and Jaime Woodbury, to guide their teams of students in designing experiments and writing their research proposals. Accompanying the winning experiment’s flight to space will also be an originally designed mission patch, created by sixth grader Finn Paquette, whose artwork was selected by his peers, among hundreds of entries.
Participation in the project was inspired as a way to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing, as well as to inspire a new generation of scientists. Local Westford residents Patti Mason and Michael Beek also spent a morning at Stony Brook sharing their personal experiences of the historic Moon landing mission with the sixth grade students, showing them that something of such global significance has roots right in their own community.
The Student Spaceflight Experiments Program [or SSEP] is a program of the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education (NCESSE) in the U.S. and the Arthur C. Clarke Institute for Space Education internationally. It is enabled through a strategic partnership with DreamUp PBC and NanoRacks LLC, which are working with NASA under a Space Act Agreement as part of the utilization of the International Space Station as a National Laboratory.