A team of four middle school students from iLEAD Pacoima will send an experiment to the International Space Station as part of the national Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP) Mission 11 project, the school announced today. The Pacoima team was selected by SSEP’s National Step 2 Review Board from a slate of three experiments submitted by iLEAD charter schools across Los Angeles County.
Student participants in the project, who attend Santa Clarita Valley International School (SCVi), iLEAD Lancaster, iLEAD Pacoima, iLEAD Encino, and iLEAD Innovation Studios, will be recognized in a special assembly at 10 a.m. on Feb. 10, at iLEAD Pacoima, 11261 Glenoaks Boulevard in Pacoima. California Secretary of State Alex Padilla, who grew up Pacoima, will attend and speak at the assembly.
Learners ranging in age from 11 to 17 were tasked with developing experiments that compare how something behaves in microgravity – which is what astronauts experience on board the International Space Station – with how that same object responds in gravity. The project helps students understand the effects of microgravity to support space exploration.
In addition, all learners and facilitators from any iLEAD campus whose project passed Step One review will be honored, as will learners who participated in the schools’ mission patch contest.
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. SSEP is the first pre-college STEM education program that is both a U.S. national initiative and implemented as an on-orbit commercial space venture.
The winning team is examining the effects of microgravity on yeast – an idea spawned by one student’s family pizza business. Their experiment calls for the astronauts onboard the International Space Station to activate yeast within a tube-like Fluid Mixing Enclosure (FME). After two days, the astronauts will introduce a fixative to stop the experiment. Simultaneously, the iLEAD Learners will be doing the same thing on Earth. When the FME returns from the space station, the students will compare how the yeast behaved in both environments by examining its spore count.
The targeted launch date for Mission 11 is spring/summer 2017. Students will have the opportunity to watch the mission liftoff at Cape Canaveral, Florida, and will also have the opportunity to present their findings at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. iLEAD is also sending an experiment to the International Space Station as part of Mission 10, which is slated to launch in April 2017.
The project is just one of iLEAD’s many initiatives designed to engage students in deeper learning experiences and further their understanding of STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art & design, and mathematics) and to build students’ connections with Southern California’s aerospace and aeronautical communities, according to Kathleen Fredette, director of STEAM Initiatives for iLEAD Schools. It underscores iLEAD’s commitment to project-based learning, a teaching method that focuses on allowing students to investigate, actively explore, and respond to authentic and complex questions or challenges.
“Our involvement in SSEP provides the opportunity for our iLEAD learners and facilitators to be involved in a real space program,” Fredette said. “They are not just pretending to develop microgravity experiments – they are actually doing it. This is a very challenging project that invites learners to imagine, collaborate, and then roll up their sleeves and produce a proposal that real scientists are reading for selection to ISS. Who gets to do that?!”