Students at Bellevue’s Open Window School are looking toward the stars after developing proposals for microgravity experiments to be conducted by astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS). One student-designed experiment will be among 33 selected from Brazil, Canada, and the United States to fly on Mission 14 to the ISS in spring/summer of 2020 as part of the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP). SSEP is undertaken by the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education (NCESSE) in partnership with DreamUp PBC and NanoRacks, LLC.
This year’s eighth graders participated in the SSEP as fourth graders in 2016. They joined their fourth through seventh grade peers: engaging in a variety of microgravity learning experiences; designing research proposals for microgravity experiments in diverse fields such as seed germination, crystal growth, physiology and life cycles of microorganisms, cell biology and growth, food studies, and studies of micro-aquatic life; and submitting these proposals for review by experts in the field.
This fall, teams submitted their formal research proposals for review by a team of master STEM educators and local researchers who convened in November and selected three finalist proposals. These proposals include: An Exploration of Growing Dolomite Crystals in Microgravity designed by a team of fifth grade scientists, Anja Bajari, Sofia Del Villar, Michelle Imasaki, Samantha Stiles, and Sophie Velea; Generational Development of C. elegans in Microgravity designed by a team of sixth graders, Adarsh Sanjay, Annicka Hsue, Jachin Lee, and Jian Zhou Chen; and Effects of Microgravity on Penicillium Chrysogenum’s Ability to Inhibit Cell Wall Synthesis in Staphylococcus Epidermis designed by a team of eighth graders, Armaan Thomas, Atiwit Miles Chanbai, and Cadence Ching.
These proposals have been submitted to the National Step 2 Review Board, who will select the final experiment for a spring/summer 2020 spaceflight. Fourth through eighth grade students will gather for an assembly to celebrate the SSEP process and the selected Open Window School flight experiment will be announced on January 8. Each experiment was designed to work within the constraints of a Fluids Mixing Enclosure (FME) research mini-laboratory and pass a NASA Flight Safety Review.
In parallel to the fourth through eighth grade ISS research proposals, kindergarten through third grade students are designing science experiments, one of which will be selected to fly to near-space on the sixth grade high altitude balloon in spring 2020.
In addition to the microgravity experiment, Open Window School will send two official mission patches designed by kindergarten through eighth grade students to fly aboard the ISS.
Participation in this esteemed program is an example of Open Window’s core value of Authenticity, a commitment to challenging, supporting, and trusting students to do real work that matters and has an impact beyond the classroom. Students have visited northwest science and aerospace museums, observatories, and planetariums as well as partnered with adult professionals in various scientific and aeronautic fields. In addition, students are gaining critical written communications skills as they engage in an authentic two-step science proposal review process.
Head of School, Jeff Stroebel, believes that SSEP offers a unique opportunity for Open Window School students: “Participation in SSEP offers our students an experience that they will remember the rest of their lives. Far more than learning science, they will have the opportunity to be scientists, conducting an experiment structured identically to the work of the world’s leading researchers.”
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.