Students Plan Experiments for International Space Station

Community support makes it possible for students to send an experiment into outer space

Greensboro, N.C. – Thanks to $20,000 in grants and funding from local foundations and community supporters, Guilford County Schools (GCS) students will have the chance to test a science experiment in outer space this fall. Through the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program, a team of middle school students will send an experiment to the International Space Station. They will be among some of the first researchers to send an experiment to the space station via a commercial spacecraft.

Today, students from four schools will visit the Joint School of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering to talk with graduate students about conducting science experiments in small spaces, like a test tube onboard a spacecraft. 

The district’s participation in the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program guarantees GCS one experimental slot. Students from four middle schools – Ferndale Middle, Johnson Street Global Studies, Mendenhall Middle and Northeast Middle – will form teams to develop proposals for an experiment design competition.

Their proposals will be reviewed by a board of local community members, university representatives, science professionals and GCS educators, who will select the top three experiments. The National Center for Earth and Space Science Education, which administers the program, will select one of the three finalists for spaceflight. GCS will also select two student-designed mission patches to fly with the experiment.

“This is the same process that real scientists follow when they have an idea and they want to explore it,” said Dr. Beth Folger, chief academic officer. “Our students are moving beyond learning about science in the classroom to actually proposing a research question, designing an experiment to test it and getting real results that they will be able to analyze. There is no better way to get our students interested in STEM careers in the science, technology, engineering and math fields.”

The N.C. Space Grant, John G.B. Jr. and Jane R. Ellison Family Foundation, Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro, GCS Enrichment Fund and the PTAs of the four schools involved all contributed to make the experience possible. 

This is the second time GCS will participate in the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program. In 2011, a team of students from Mendenhall Middle designed an experiment about the effect of gravity on brine shrimp. The experiment was selected to fly on the final mission of Space Shuttle Endeavour.

The Student Spaceflight Experiments Program is a national science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) program undertaken by the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education in partnership with NanoRacks LLC, which is working with NASA under a formal Space Act Agreement as part of the utilization of the International Space Station as a National Laboratory.

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