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Knox County Students Travel to Florida While Experiments Travel to Space

For several years Knox County schools have participated in the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP). The 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. 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.


On Feb. 13, students from Bearden, Halls and Vine middle schools will travel to Florida to watch their experiments launch with the Mission 9 to the ISS.


Last school year, a team of nine Bearden Middle School students proposed testing the effectiveness of certain antibiotics on bacterial conjunctivitis (pink eye) in space. As the winning experiment, it will fly to the International Space Station. Sixth grade students from Halls Middle came in second place with their proposal of an experiment analyzing the effect of microgravity on the germination of squash seeds; they’ll go to Florida, but their project won’t go to space.


Also, a second proposal from Bearden and a new proposal from Vine Middle were recently under review by the SSEP Step 2 Review Board to see whose experiments will fly to space later this year with Mission 11. Vine’s project was selected for that flight, which will tentatively launch in June.


“In the Office of Innovation, we strive to support schools with innovative programming that encourages our students to be bold and brave in their approach to problem solving. We want to support our students to be risk takers who embody the innovator’s mindset,” said Daphne Odom, Executive Director of Innovation and School Improvement. “The SSEP achieves that and more! We could not be prouder of our KCS scientists and engineers for having their experiments chosen.”


This year, the fun of SSEP wasn’t limited to middle school students, Knox County elementary schools took part in the Mission 9 Patch Design Contest—a design competition held in conjunction with the SSEP that encouraged the creation of a mission patch. Approximately 1,800 students in grades K-4 created patches representing their communities. Art teachers from each school narrowed down the top designs, and submitted 98 patches from 11 elementary schools to a group of 600 high school students who chose the top eight, which were posted on the Knox County Schools website for community voting. Dossie Nichols, now in fourth grade at Beaumont Elementary, created the winning patch (picture attached).


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