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WNY STEM Hub Announces Local Finalists

Student Scientists Design Authentic Research Projects for Space Station

Author: Tracy Diina

WNY STEM Hub, a regional nonprofit offering one-of-a-kind STEM learning experiences, will soon be announcing the winners of their 4th mission to space competition for experiment projects designed by local students as a part of the WNY Take Flight Program.

Three local schools were announced as finalists this week during the WNY STEM Hub Networking Session on Biomedical Careers at Roswell Park’s Research Studies Center:  International Preparatory Academy in Buffalo, Lockport High School, and Wellsville Secondary School. The teams now move to the final round of judging and one winner will be selected on December 17th.

This is the fourth year that WNY STEM Hub has offered the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program, designed and operated by the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education (NCESSE). The goal is for student scientists to create and design flight experiments that can be conducted by astronauts onboard the International Space Station as part of the Take Flight Program.

WNY STEM Hub coordinated the project with more than 300 students from 6 local schools in grades 5-12 to design and test authentic experiments investigating diverse topics like seed germination, crystal growth, food studies, cell biology, and physiology and life cycles of micro-organisms.

Local schools incorporate curriculum explaining space experiments and then students form research teams of 3-5 students per team who draft a formal experiment design and proposal.  Each of the teams compete to be the one student team whose microgravity experiment gets sent to the International Space Station, where astronauts will operate the experiment scheduled for the Spring/Summer of 2020.

At this point in the competition, a local judging team has rated proposals from each of the participating schools and identified 3 Finalist team proposals to be sent to NCESSE from which a national panel selects one for flight to the ISS. WNY STEM Hub will announce the local winner after the December 17th selection.

Earlier this year, the “Sporeos”–the 2018 winning team from International Preparatory Academy– launched their experiment to the ISS to determine The Effect of Microgravity on Bacillus subtilis on Subsequent Terrestrial Behavior.

Students who participate in the Take Flight Program receive an authentic, real-world, research experience that can forever endear them to STEM careers, especially those in space.

“Students who participate in the Take Flight Program receive an authentic, real-world, research experience that can forever endear them to STEM careers, especially those in space,” said Dr. Michelle Kavanaugh, WNY STEM Hub’s acting executive director.  “This program is not a simulation but a unique opportunity for students to discover the role of real microgravity researchers, the challenges of doing experiments in a weightless environment, writing proposals and experiencing a real scientific review competition. Space, the final frontier, is brought to Earth. “

The three finalists teams of student scientists presented the following winning proposals:

  • International Studies Preparatory Academy in Buffalo: The Effects of Microgravity on The Mating Habits of Hypsibius Dujardini
  • Lockport High School: Microgravity’s Effect on Geometric Pattern Formations in Escherichia coli Biofilms vs. Normalized Gravity
  • Wellsville Secondary School: The Effect of Anabolic Steroids on Muscle Atrophy in Microgravity

Salamanca High School also won an Honorable Mention for an experiment on Penicillin Extraction in Microgravity.

The winning team will travel to Cape Canaveral for the launch of their experiment, engage with researchers on post-flight testing of specimens returned to Earth, and share their findings during a national convening at the Smithsonian.

Overall, the program provides students with a rich scientific experience and opportunities to connect with local and national STEM resources.

Local participation is made possible by significant grants from Praxair/Linde and First Niagara Foundation. Broad supplemental support comes from: Moog, Olin, Otis Eastern, Siemens, Trautman Associates, Hoot Mechanical & Electrical, and InfoTech WNY.

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