Beginning in 2013, teachers and students at Awty International School in Houston helped pave the way for area schools to become participants in the emerging commercial space industry... and to help make Houston a leader in encouraging students to consider STEM careers by using the excitement of space flight to inspire science studies.
Sponsored by a diverse group of commercial space companies and a NASA-funded nonprofit, Awty students in 4th, 5th, and 8th grade classes engineered and conducted a variety of space science experiments.
In experiments first sponsored at Awty in 2013 by the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (www.iss-casis.org), 5th grade science students in Jessika Smith’s classes and 8th grade students in Angela Glidewell’s middle school classroom engineered and launched experiments to the International Space Station. Working in partnership with Nanoracks (www.nanoracks.com), Awty students built experiments to study yeast growth and radiation shielding in the microgravity environment of the ISS. Thwarted twice by launch failures, Awty’s experiments finally made it to the ISS aboard SpaceX 9, and just recently returned for analysis.
In 2015, Carolyn Lassiter’s 4th graders, along with Jessika Smith’s 5th grade classes, conducted experiments in comparative seed germination and plant growth, using science kits created by Edge of Space (www.edgeofspace.us). Using radish seeds flown to space aboard the UP Aerospace Spaceloft 10 mission, students grew their space-flown radish seeds to maturity, and compared them with control seeds. Students learned the importance of following the scientific method and how to record and report experiment data, observations, and conclusions.
In 2014 and 2015, Beverly Lawson’s lower school art classes joined their creative talents with their science studies to produce space science inspired art works. Selected drawings were flown to space in May 2016 aboard the Minerva 1 stratospheric balloon mission, sponsored through a partnership between Edge of Space and Arete Stem Project (www.arete-stem-project.org), and were returned to the school for display.
Looking ahead, Awty teachers - partnering with Edge of Space - have plans to expand their work in space science. In the 2016-17 school year, Ms. Smith and Ms. Lassiter’s classes will again conduct their experiments with seeds exposed during space flight. Ms. Lawson’s art students will create science inspired paintings for flight to space for the third year in a row. And Ms. Smith’s classes will conduct an experiment in fluid density that will be flown on another Minerva flight. Edge of Space started work recently with Awty’s Office of Advancement to create additional opportunities for teachers and students at the school to engage in space flight as a part of their educations.
Look for the Awty students and teachers at SpaceCom 2016. You’ll be inspired by their stories of hard work, creativity, and perseverance!