Students at Bellevue’s Open Window School are hoping they’ve got the right stuff to send a scientific experiment out of this world.
The school is one of only 22 in the U.S. and Canada chosen to submit experiments to fly on Mission 9 to the International Space Station next spring as part of the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP). It is the only school in the state to participate this year.
“We’ve done a lot of amazing things, but we’ve never gone to space before,” said Jeff Stroebel, principal of the school situated near Cougar Mountain Regional Wildlife Park.
Students grades 4 through 8 will design microgravity experiments, one of which will be chosen to be conducted on the International Space Station. The experiments could cover many fields, including seed germination, crystal growth, physiology and life cycles of microorganisms, cell biology and growth, food studies, and studies of micro-aquatic life. The experiments must be designed to work within the constraints of a Fluids Mixing Enclosure (FME) research mini-laboratory and pass a NASA Flight Safety Review.
The laboratory on the International Space Station is the only microgravity lab in existence.
Jeff Goldstein of the spaceflight program spoke to Open Window School students over Skype on Oct. 2.
“Just like Neil Armstrong inspired me, this project was designed to inspire you,” he told the K-8 crowd.
In addition to creating and testing their experiments, the student groups also will write a five-page research proposal this month. They will then present their proposed experiments to a panel of master STEM educators and local researchers who will choose the top three experiments to be proposed for the space station.
“This is real world, authentic research,” said Adrienne Gifford, the school’s director of innovation and technology who has spearheaded Open Window’s participation in the program. “As a researcher, you have to be good at science, but you also have to have good communication skills. Our students are going to get those skills much earlier that students generally do.”
Last year, the Open Window School conducted a weather balloon experiment. Later, a parent approached Gifford after learning about the spaceflight program. “It really is the next step in space exploration for our students,” Gifford said.
Gifford and a team of administrators and teachers scrambled to complete the application, which was due mere days after the parent and Gifford discovered the program. The program is undertaken by the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education.
While designing the experiment will be relegated to the upper grade levels, the entire school will participate. Students will design two mission patches to be worn in space – one created by kindergarteners through third graders, the other by fourth through eighth graders.
The Open Window School expects to hear what experiment has been selected to be tested in the International Space Station in December. Although no official launch date has been set at this time, Mission 9 will launch sometime this spring.
Allison DeAngelis: 425-453-4290; firstname.lastname@example.org