Harmon Middle Project on Space Station

May 15, 2023
From Pickerington Schools

Pickerington Schools is thrilled to announce that Harmon Middle School students have been selected to participate in Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP) Mission 17, which means they will send a research experiment for astronauts to conduct on the International Space Station (ISS)!

The student team selected is comprised of two sixth grade students: Naila Abdi and Abigayel Ghebireegzabher. Their experiment aims to explore microgravity’s effects on the germination of bamboo seeds (Bambusa vulgaris). 

Comparing the system in a microgravity environment and on Earth will allow the student researchers to discover if bamboo can germinate in microgravity. The research is important because bamboo can provide astronauts with medical and nutritional benefits, and if bamboo can be grown in microgravity, it could be used to build structures. 

Secondary Science Instructional Coach Carla Fultz and Middle School Science Coach Anna Meyer are the project co-directors for PLSD. 

“I am thrilled to offer this important program to our students and so proud that PLSD was the first Central Ohio school district to be selected to send experiment materials to the ISS,” said Fultz. “Students worked in teams of two to three to conduct research, design experiments and submit the formal research proposals.”

This year’s proposal was selected from more than 250 experiments from PLSD students in grades 6-12. A Step One Review Board selected proposals to submit to the NASA Step Two Review Board.

The other PLSD finalists were:

Grade 11 Pickerington High School North
    Bone Mineralization in Microgravity
    Teacher: Adam Philpott
    Students: Audrey Chesnut, Kyliegh Crampton, Grace Craycraft
    Summary of Proposal:  This experiment explores the effects of vitamin D in microgravity on osteoblast mineralization in contrast to osteoblast mineralization on Earth. Comparing the experiment on both Earth and in microgravity will show how mineralization and supplementation effects may or may not change in microgravity. The hypothesis of the matter is, “If osteoblasts are subjected to vitamin D in microgravity, then the osteoblasts will have a different mineralization than they would on Earth.” If the hypothesis follows as predicted, astronauts and scientists will have an additional basis to help explore ways to keep humans healthy in space.

Grade 11 Pickerington High School North 
    Campylobacter Within Microgravity
    Teacher: Dan McCullough
    Student: Evangelia Smith
    Summary of Proposal: This experiment will examine how fast an antibiotic will kill a certain type of bacteria in microgravity compared to the bacteria’s regular reaction on Earth. These types of experiments are important to test because the human immune system weakens during long durations of microgravity, making the body prone to diseases. This is especially important as campylobacteriosis (or simply campylobacter) is a gastrointestinal food-borne disease and may be infected within the food given to astronauts whether or not it has expired. Multiple food-borne diseases have been experimented on because every bacteria and virus works differently and, therefore, will have different results. Multiple experiments on food-borne illnesses in space may assist with knowing how fast bacteria die within space travel. Results may contribute to research back on Earth and allow scientists to provide more effective treatments for food-borne illnesses.

Grade 7 Lakeview Junior High
    How Fluid Diffusion Changes Due to Experiencing Microgravity
    Teacher: Jay Bartos
    Students: Flynn Caton, Megan Marcinko, and Olivia Schneider    Summary of Proposal: The researcher’s chosen proposal is How Fluid Diffusion Changes Due to Experiencing Microgravity. The full definition of Fluid Diffusion is mixing two different liquids with different densities and studying the reaction. A simple way to investigate fluid diffusion in microgravity is to place two fluids with different densities and bring them into contact in orbit. The effect microgravity has on diffusion is what the researchers hope to investigate. This specific investigation was chosen because the researchers thought studying the changes would be fascinating. The challenge of developing an effective fluid diffusion experiment for this flight opportunity comes from the basic design of the mini-laboratory. It will not be possible to film or photograph the samples once they have been loaded, so there is no way to observe the fluid diffusion process in orbit.

Grade 9 and 11 Pickerington High School Central
Effects of Microgravity on Oncologic Cancer Treatment
    Teacher: Brian Hoff
    Students: Evan Adams and Heath Scofield
    Summary of Proposal: This experiment aims to explore the effects Microgravity has on oncologic cancer treatment. Comparing the system in a microgravity environment and on Earth will allow for a better understanding of Oncology and medical care in space. This research is important because it may be important for future long-distance spaceflight missions. This group’s experiment will address the question, “Is Talimogene Laherparepvec more effective against Malignant Melanoma in Microgravity?” If the hypothesis is supported throughout the investigation, then there may be merit in further orbital medical experimentation or treatment.
    Because ISS astronauts ran into an issue while conducting the experiment sent by the PLSD student team last spring as part of Mission 16, that team will again send research experiment materials as part of Mission 17.
    Last year’s Mission 16 student team included Pickerington High School Central’s Trevor Blankenship and Isaac Hoshor, and their research proposal is named “Algae: The Fuel Source of Space.” Since Trevor and Isaac graduated in 2022, they will work with current high school students to re-send the experiment materials, and later analyze the research results. 
    The SSEP is a program of the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education in the U.S. and the Arthur C. Clarke Institute for Space Education Internationally. It is enabled through a strategic partnership with NanoRacks, LLC, which is working with NASA under a Space Act Agreement as part of the utilization of the ISS as a National Laboratory.