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Students are Scientists

A team of students from Gresham Middle School worked the majority of the 2014-2015 school year to design an experiment through the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program’s (SSEP) Mission 7 to the International Space Station (ISS).  Their experiment was chosen through a national review at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, completed the NASA Flight Safety Review and was integrated into the payload on a SpaceX-7 rocket bound for the ISS in late June.
During the process, the students, led by Gresham Middle School faculty advisors, Amelia Brown and Bryan Paschal, studied authentic scientific research methods, learned about microgravity experimentation and worked to design their own experiment and write authentic research proposals.  Their experiment had to fit within a Fluids Mixing Enclosure (FME), simple mini-laboratory that allow fluids or solids to be mixed in orbit, giving students an understanding of the effects of microgravity on physical, chemical or biological systems.  The Gresham Middle School experiment, Effects of Microgravity on the Efficacy of Ciprofloxacin on Escherichia Coli, tested the efficacy on treating the bacteria, E. Coli, which was being used as a model for common bacterial infections that can affect astronauts on the ISS, with Ciprofloxacin, an antibiotic.  It was scheduled to spend 30 days in space, where astronauts would perform the necessary protocols for the student research mission.
Gresham team members are (2014-2015) seventh and eighth graders Keagan Cross, Molly Hensley, Haley Hill, Hanson Lam, Katherine Redden and Andrew Starling.  The team worked in collaboration with professors and graduate students from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Food Sciences Department; University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Biochemistry Department and Maryville College.
In late June, the team traveled to Cape Canaveral, Florida, to witness the launch, which unfortunately malfunctioned upon liftoff.  The rocket exploded…but the students’ experiences and hopes were not dashed.
The students were able to witness and learn about how NASA is prepared for and responds to emergencies.  They attended post-event briefings given by NASA officials for media and others and got to discuss the experience with an astronaut.  They learned that space travel is risky, and when unexpected events occur, scientists are prepared to take action to get the program back on track.  The Gresham team has been invited to build a duplicate experiment and send to NASA for payload integration and transport to the ISS later this year.
“This project is an excellent way to introduce students to the collaborative nature of science as well as the peer-review process that modern science relies upon,” said Brown.  “The program is an awesome experience for students to participate in science, math and technology at the professional level, which is a unique opportunity.  Students will remember this for a lifetime.”
A team from Bearden Middle School were alternates for Mission 7.
SSEP uses a commercial spaceflight payload, which will contain the SSEP student experiments that will be placed aboard ferry vehicles for transfer to the ISS.  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 Student Space Flight Experiments Program ( is undertaken by the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education (NCESSE in partnership with NanoRacks, LLC.
This on-orbit educational research opportunity is enabled through NanoRacks, LLC, which is working in partnership with NASA under a Space Act Agreement as part of the utilization of the International Space Station as a National Laboratory.
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On Aug. 5, 2015, the Board of Education and Superintendent Jim McIntyre recognized students from Gresham Middle School and Bearden Middle School for participating in Student Spaceflight Experiments Program’s Mission 7 to the International Space Station.