Pirate science flies to space station

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Since the start of the 2018 school year, grades 7-11 science classes at Berea Community have been designing experiments for the Student Spaceflight Experiment Program; their proposals were submitted on November 2. The Student Spaceflight Experiment Program (SSEP) is a community-wide competition to fly an experiment, designed to test the effects of microgravity, aboard the International Space Station. About 40 other communities are also involved in the program, and will be sending up experiments of their own.

One of the proposals from Berea Community will have a guaranteed spot aboard the International Space Station. The school was afforded this opportunity through the help of a high school science teacher, Mr. Joshua Woodward, who wrote the grant for the SSEP. Berea Community also partners with Berea College, so all of the proposals from Berea Community will first be sent to Berea College, where a committee will choose 3 proposals to move on to the SSEP. Of the 3 proposals that move on, the SSEP will choose 1 of the experiments to put aboard the International Space Station.

The chosen proposal will provide simple steps to be followed by an astronaut aboard the International Space Station. The experiment process that is chosen will then be followed by the group who designed it, but on earth. The experiment process will be replicated in the exact same way in both places to ensure that the effects of microgravity are being tested.

The proposals have been developed in class; they allow the students to be directly involved in crafting their own experiments, leading to more learning experiences. The groups’ experiments cover a wide range of topics, from the stability of RNA to the growth of microorganisms. Even though the groups differ in their focus, they are all learning about how to design and effectively conduct an experiment. About this process, one of Berea’s freshman proposal groups commented, “[We] have further expanded our knowledge about space travel and experimental design.”

Through participation in the Student Spaceflight Experiment Program, Berea Community students have been given the opportunity to learn about and be directly involved in science.