By Joe Cory
Catholic Key Reporter
KANSAS CITY — A lot of firsts were celebrated at a Pep Rally at St. Peter School on Dec. 19.
Eighth graders, Tone’Nae Bradley-Toomer, Zoe Butler, Anna Campbell, and Maureen Egan first found out that their microgravity experiment will be sent into space later this Spring.
They are representing the Kansas City collaboration of four charter schools and one Catholic school, which is the first charter school/parochial school collaboration of this kind in Kansas City. They are also the first students in the state of Missouri to be part of the commercial space program, Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP) Mission 5.
According to it’s website- http://ssep.ncesse.org – SSEP is about immersing and engaging students and their teachers in every facet of real science—on the high frontier—so that students are given the chance to be scientists—and experience science firsthand.
A total of 6,750 student researchers across 15 communities were formally engaged in microgravity experiment design. A total of 1,344 flight experiment proposals were received from student research teams. From the Kansas City community, a total of 680 students comprised 115 teams.
The St. Peter’s 7th and 8th grade science teacher, Bob Jacobsen, volunteered to work with 16 8th grade students who opted to participate in the SSEP. They were: Team Swaggernauts: Joe Hathaway, Patrick Hayes, Ryan Holmquist and Dante Javaheri. Team Super Nova: Lia Biritz, Katherine Cory, Gavin Miller and Faith Palausky. Team Gravity Warriors: Henry Buren, Helayna James, Oliver Oxler and Ruby Rios. Team Defying Micro Gravity: Tone’nae Bradley-Toomer, Zoe Butler, Anna Campbell and Maureen Egan.
The students were asked to come up with an experimental design and proposal which could be conducted in a test tube mini-lab that was provided by the SSEP Program. The experiment will be conducted by astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS), and the mini-labs are scheduled to return to Earth six weeks after the launch this Spring.
“I’m really proud of the students, not just here at St. Peter’s,” he said, “but all of the students in the various schools that chose to take on this challenge.”
“It was just a wonderful experience,” said Jacobsen.” A lot of hard work, but I think the rewards are well worth it.”
Team Defying Microgravity’s experiment on oxidation consisted of a test tube with a small nail and water separated by a clamp. “The astronauts in space will remove the clip separating them so that the water will mix with the nail so the nail can rust. We want to know if it will rust faster or slower or not at all in space, than it would on earth,” said Zoe Butler.
The St. Peter’s experiment will join 14 other communities across the country whose experiments are set to launch as part of Payload Charlie Brown on May 1, 2014. An Antares rocket will take the Orb-2 Cygnus ferrying vehicle into space, launching from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) on Wallops Island, VA. Cygnus is expected to reach the ISS within 3 days, and the payload will be returned to Earth in approximately 6 weeks from launch.
As part of the experiment, the students from the Kansas City schools will each be doing a ground truth experiment, so the results from the experiment in space (microgravity) can then be compared with the control experiments on Earth (gravity).
Another aspect of SSEP Mission 5 is a Patch Design contest. The winning patch will be sent to the ISS along with the microgravity experiment. The winner of the Kansas City Patch Design competition was My Ly from Della Lamb.
“I think it’s special since we are not only the first school in Kansas City, but the first school in Missouri to send something into space,” said Zoe Butler.
“I think it is fun being involved with other charter schools in the KC area, schools that we are not usually involved with. It brings us together as a community” said Anna Campbell.
Maureen Egan agreed. “I think it’s pretty cool that we get to be involved with the schools that are around us, because we’ve never been able to do that before. I really thank them for the opportunity.”
“I think it breaks the wall a little, said Tone’nae Bradley Toomer.” It’s not just Catholic schools competing against Catholic schools and public schools competing against public schools. It mixes it up.”
Benjamin Banneker Charter Academy of Technology instigated the collaboration and participation in this program, inviting St. Peter’s School, Academie Lafayette, Della Lamb Elementary and Hogan Preparatory Academy Middle School to join them. “We are so thankful for their leadership and commitment to truly making this a community collaboration, said Paula Holmquist of St. Peter’s Parish.
This is just one initiative of several that has resulted in a growing collaboration of schools and organizations, called aSTEAM Village. If you’d like to volunteer to help St. Peter’s support programs like this, e-mail Paula Holmquist at firstname.lastname@example.org. They are looking for volunteers to help guide and sustain participation in programs like SSEP, FIRST Lego League, and other after-school and summer “brain sports” programs.
The Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (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 NanoRacks LLC, 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. To learn more, visit http://ssep.ncesse.org.