A group including local iLEAD charter school students from Castaic celebrated an out-of-this-world lesson plan Friday with California’s Secretary of State.
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A team of four middle school students from iLEAD Pacoima are sending an experiment to the International Space Station as part of the national Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP) Mission 11 project, the school announced today.
The group included students from Santa Clarita Valley International School (SCVi), iLEAD Lancaster, iLEAD Pacoima, iLEAD Encino and iLEAD Innovation Studios.
Secretary of State Alex Padilla, who grew up Pacoima, spoke at the assembly. Padilla was joined by Assemblyman Dante Acosta, as well as a representative from Senator Scott Wilk’s office.
“It was nice to have so much support from our elected officials for these public charter schools, and iLEAD in particular,” Dawn Evenson, executive director of education for iLEAD schools.
Learners ranging in age from 11 to 17 were tasked with developing experiments that compare how something behaves in microgravity – which is what astronauts experience on board the International Space Station – with how that same object responds in gravity.
The Pacoima team was selected by SSEP’s National Step 2 Review Board from a slate of three experiments submitted by iLEAD charter schools across Los Angeles County.
The project helps students understand the effects of microgravity to support space exploration.
In addition, all learners and facilitators from any iLEAD campus whose project passed Step One review were recognized honored, as will learners who participated in the schools’ mission patch contest.
The Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (or SSEP) is a program of the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education (NCESSE) in the United States, and the Arthur C. Clarke Institute for Space Education internationally.
The program 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.
SSEP is the first pre-college STEM education program that is both a U.S. national initiative and implemented as an on-orbit commercial space venture.
The winning team is examining the effects of microgravity on yeast – an idea spawned by one student’s family pizza business.
Their experiment calls for the astronauts onboard the International Space Station to activate yeast within a tube-like Fluid Mixing Enclosure (FME). After two days, the astronauts will introduce a fixative to stop the experiment. Simultaneously, the iLEAD Learners will be doing the same thing on Earth. When the FME returns from the space station, the students will compare how the yeast behaved in both environments by examining its spore count.
The targeted launch date for Mission 11 is spring/summer 2017.
Amber Raskin, executive director of business development and operations and co-founder of the iLEAD schools alongside Evenson, noted this was the type of educational opportunity they had in mind when the schools were created.
“This project,” Raskin said, “represents exactly the kind of unique, hands-on learning experiences offered throughout the iLEAD programs and public charter schools throughout the state.”