POTSDAM, N.Y. (NEWS10) – At a school in the North Country’s highest reaches, students are reaching for the stars. This week, a Clarkson University project is lifting the work of a trio of high and middle school students into space, all the way to the International Space Station.
Three students from Harrisville Central School, located east of the Watertown area, were chosen as the winning team of “Clarkson Discovery Challenge – Space,” part of the national Student Spaceflight Experiments Program. 10th graders Elaine LaVancha and Hailey Meagher, and 8th grader Ethan LaVancha, were chosen along with their teacher, Nicole Taylor, as the winners from among 52 teams that proposed science experiments to send into space.
The project in question: “The effects of microgravity on chlamydomonas reinhardtii algae when exposed to optimal nutrient levels.” It’s a long name that might be hard to parse for the less science-minded, but for Taylor, the significance is in seeing her students show what they can do.
“The students were able to explore their own research ideas and get the satisfaction that they can be real scientists through experiments. They were empowered to put their thoughts on paper and perform their own research. Who knew that microgravity was a thing and is important in our daily lives? The experience will be something they will never forget,” said Taylor. “Some are already thinking of their proposal ideas for next year.”
The experiment will be conducted onboard the International Space Station itself. Now that the project has been selected, it’s expected that work in space will begin this coming spring or summer. But the students’ job won’t be done; they’ll be conducting the same experiments on Earth, trading their results with ones from far above the atmosphere.
The Clarkson project is a collaboration with various upper North Country schools. Members of Clarkson’s STEM department worked with science teachers and middle and high school students at five school districts, including Harrisville, Canton, Brasher Falls, Parishville-Hopkinton and Norwood-Norfolk. Clarkson teachers were happy to keep students engaged in the sciences after difficult times in recent years.
“This project is challenging work in ‘normal’ times, but COVID has made it trickier,” said Dr. Seema Rivera, Associate Director of Clarkson’s STEM Education institute. However, the students have shown a solid commitment to this work; it was clear from our meetings that they are excited about doing research. Their teacher, Ms. Taylor, said this ignited their interest in pursuing STEM and they are seeing themselves as scientists.”
Fifty-two groups of students and teachers sent proposals in for ISS projects. Three of those were selected by local judges, and the final section was made by a national review board. The three students will get to present findings at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, and attend the experiment launch at Cape Canaveral, Fl.