Heavy ideas for weightless work

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 Students who worked on proposals for experiments for the International Space Station were recognized at a recent Board of Education meeting. 
 Students who worked on proposals for experiments for the International Space Station were recognized at a recent Board of Education meeting.

Students recognized for proposals for experiments on space station

OCEAN CITY — When Mission Six blasts off to the International Space Station later this year, it will include a science project designed by Ocean City High School students.

Several of the students vying for the honor were recognized by the Ocean City Board of Education at a Wednesday, May 28 meeting.

“The astronauts on the Space Station will conduct the experiment and we’re going to watch it,” Superintendent Kathleen Taylor said. “It’s been a wonderful opportunity for all of our students.”

The Ocean City School District is one of 20 districts from across the nation to be selected to participate in the Student Spaceflight Experiment Program, SSEP.

SSEP models the breadth and depth of real scientific research by the professional community, including the use of authentic proposal guidelines. The SSEP was launched in 2010 by the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education in partnership with NanoRacks, LLC. Encouraging Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, STEM education, the initiative provides an opportunity for students to design and propose real experiments to fly in low Earth orbit, aboard the International Space Station. 

Taylor said the project was a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” for Ocean City students.

With the goal of getting 300 students involved, an official kick-off for the project was held on Feb. 24.

Designed to inspire and engage the next generation of American scientists and engineers as a means of addressing a strategic workforce need in the 21st century, Ocean City High School students and sixth to eighth graders at the Ocean City Intermediate School and Upper Township Middle School were invited to design a project that can simultaneously be performed in space and on Earth.

Working in groups of three to five, interested students competed. Three of the experiments will be sent to Washington, D.C. and one of them will launch into space.

Ocean City was selected to participate in part because of the school district’s new observatory.

The projects were student-driven, Taylor said. Students performed their own research; teachers were involved in a supervisory/advisory capacity role.

The proposals were due by April 28 and a two-step review process began. Those involved in the three selected projects and two alternates were recognized and given an opportunity to explain their projects.

The top three projects include blood coagulation, snails and E. coli.  

Under the guidance of teacher Catherine Georges, Hiba Ahmad, Maham Ahmad, Kimberly Brown, Liam Bradley and Elizabeth May performed “Blood Coagulation in Space.”

“This group of students worked diligently on their project over the course of several months,” said Taylor.  “They, along with their advisor, met to discuss the mechanisms of coagulation and several variables to control for when designing the experiment.”

This group, she said, took the initiative to contact a variety of sources such as Stockton, the Red Cross and LabCorp. 

“An experimental design of this quality would be impressive for graduate-level students, let alone a group of seniors and freshmen in high school,” she said.  

Blood Coagulation in Space is designed to analyze the clotting of blood both during and after spaceflight, she said.

“It is hypothesized that blood will coagulate more slowly in the absence of gravity, but will rapidly increase upon reentry,” she said. “Understanding this process is vital to ensure the safety of any who travel in space.”

Under the guidance of Georges, students Lauren Bowersock, Mercy Griffith, Kristina Redmond, Daniel Loggi, Kaitland Wriggins and Alison Miles developed “Attachment of Escherichia coli K-12 Strain with Curli Expressing Gene to Alfalfa Sprouts.”

“Our E. coli group overcame many hurdles to design this experiment,” said Taylor. 

Working with E. coli in space can be dangerous, she said, and therefore this group was forced to redesign the experiment several times. 

“The final product is a result of a large amount of research through scholarly journals and personal communication with college professors,” she said.  “They have demonstrated impressive persistence and ingenuity throughout this process.  It is my hope that they continue to innovate throughout their academic careers.”

Attachment of Escherichia coli K-12 Strain with Curli Expressing Gene to Alfalfa Sprouts examines the effect microgravity has on the attachment rates of the E-Coli bacteria, she said.

“Understanding how bacteria, particularly harmful bacteria, is altered in the absence of gravity is essential for the health and safety of those traveling in space,” Taylor said.

Under the guidance of teacher Keith Zammitt, students Gregory Fischer and Hannah Lucey developed “A study of snails in microgravity,” examining how the absence of gravity would affect a snail’s ability to control algae growing in a water supply. 

“This is important if we are ever to develop aquatic ecosystems as a source of food in microgravity,” she said.

Fischer, a sophomore student currently enrolled Zammit's Honors Chemistry class is a very hard working student that enjoys to be challenged, Taylor said.

Lucey, a junior was enrolled in Zammit's Honors Chemistry class last year and brings creativity to the mix. She had the ability to visualize concepts differently from other students, Taylor said.

All of the students involved, she said, were referred to as “doctor” by the experiment organizers.

“That’s pretty important, that they anticipate that you will one day have MD or PhD attached to your names,” she said.

Taylor thanked Assistant Principal Chris Lentz and science teacher Dan Weaver for their assistance.

There was a competition to design a space patch which will go into orbit and come back to earth and eventually the district, in a frame.

Winners from the Intermediate School include Gabrielle Hart, Grace Burke, Juliette Shirk, Gabriella Gagliardi, Aislyn Warden, Micah Waid, Izabel Martinez, Alexis Preis, Gabrielle Eiler and Chloe Mack.  

Primary School winners include Ben Varga, Evan Schweibinz, Ethan Dyjack, Cole Watson, Avery Madden, Laney Michael, Mali Alexander, Valentina Asenov, Luke Wagner and Arden Nussey.  

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