More than 500 students in grades 5-7 are working in teams to compete for a chance to fly an experiment on the International Space Station. One experiment from the district will be among those selected for astronauts to conduct during the orbit next spring. The initiative was launched last spring by Westcot Elementary Vice-Principal Matt Trask, who worked with the National Center for Earth and Science Education (NCESSE) to raise the $27,300 USD required to bring the program to the district. The project is part of the national Student Space Flight Experiments Program (SSEP).
Starting in mid-September, students learned about forces and motion in science classes, then broke into teams to design research proposals for microgravity experiments. In November, a committee of local scientists will select one proposal from each school to submit to a national selection committee, which will then select one of the three for the Summer 2016 spaceflight.
Learning and activities around the microgravity experiment are being planned together with older students from the district’s three high schools, and offer a valuable opportunity to engage students in real-world learning experiences, according to Trask. There has also been active involvement from the community, with skype-ins from UBC professors and engineers who work on International Space Station (ISS) components.
“Gravity affects every biological, chemical, and physical system we encounter each day, so these experiments could provide data with important implications in science, engineering, medical and other fields,” he said.
Trask explained that the microgravity project aligns well with the province’s new curriculum.
“Authentic, project-based learning is a great example of what we’ve been doing in our schools since before the new curriculum was formalized at the provincial level,” he said. “Students will practice skills in proposal writing and presentation as part of the project.”
The SSEP is spearheaded by the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education, a non-profit organization that inspires the next generation of scientists and engineers by engaging their natural human impulse to be curious and explore.
The SSEP is undertaken by the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education (NCESSE) in partnership with Nanoracks, LLC. This on-orbit educational research opportunity is enabled through NanoRacks LLC, which is working in partnership with NASA under a Space Act Agreement as part of the utilization of the International Space Station as a National Laboratory.
For more information:
Bev Pausche, Manager of Communications and Community Engagement