It's not rocket science at Alice Drive Middle

Students' experiment ready for liftoff after it was chosen for trip to the space station

BY BRUCE MILLS
bruce@theitem.com
Posted 1/18/18

It was both "one small step for man" and "one giant leap for mankind" for an all-girl team Wednesday at Alice Drive Middle School - to borrow from astronaut Neil Armstrong's famous one-liner when he first walked on the moon.

In front of an …

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It's not rocket science at Alice Drive Middle

Students' experiment ready for liftoff after it was chosen for trip to the space station

Posted

It was both "one small step for man" and "one giant leap for mankind" for an all-girl team Wednesday at Alice Drive Middle School - to borrow from astronaut Neil Armstrong's famous one-liner when he first walked on the moon.

In front of an assembled audience, Principal Jeannie Pressley announced the school's top three finalist project teams selected for national review for a student spaceflight experiments program that will go to the International Space Station in June.

Pressley said Alice Drive is one of only 31 schools and colleges in the U.S., Canada and Brazil that were selected this school year for the program.

After recognizing all three student teams and their proposed experiments, Pressley unveiled the one team and experiment that was selected by a national review board of researchers and distinguished educators to be on board Mission 12 spaceflight to the International Space Station. In November, the national review board chose one experiment to represent each school in the program.

That experiment - testing the effects of microgravity on seed germination in sodium polyacrylate - will be proposed by four sixth-grade girls at the school: Alana Garrick, Alyse King, Mary Brooke Mooneyham and Ashlin Farmer.

In June, Mission 12 spaceflight astronauts will take the team's experiment - sealed in a test tube - to the International Space Station, where they will perform it for the Sumter students.

With a major focus across the world now in careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) occupations, Alice Drive is in its third year as a nationally accredited STEM school, according to Pressley.

"This is powerful," Pressley said. "This is sixth-grade girls in the STEM program going to the International Space Station."

After Pressley's announcement of the selection of girls' proposed experiment, all four donned science lab jackets, posed for pictures and discussed their experiment's components in detail.

From their own research and work, the foursome knows the outcome of the experiment on land - the vegetable seed germinates, or grows, into a small plant. But no one knows the experiment's outcome in space or microgravity, which is the lack of gravity.

The team said if its test tube comes back down as a plant, then it also germinates in the sodium mixture in microgravity. If not, the vegetable seeds will remain as just seeds when they return to Earth from the spaceflight journey.

The team said reaching its final experiment proposal was a work in progress during the fall. They performed different trials of the effects of sodium polyacrylate on materials before arriving at the final proposal with the assistance of the school's curriculum coordinator, Stephanie Barrineau.

All four girls said they're excited their experiment was chosen for the program and that they will remember this for a lifetime.

Barrineau said she and Pressley will take the girls to Cape Canaveral, Florida, in June for the spaceflight's liftoff.

Before that, Pressley said the school is trying to arrange a trip to Washington, D.C., and the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education for all three finalist teams. The center is the nonprofit organization that spearheads the spaceflight experiments program. There, all the students will get to rub shoulders with scientists and engineers that make up the organization.

"We worked really hard and are very excited with the next step," Alana Garrick said.

A native of Jamaica, Garrick is just 10 years old but already in the sixth grade.

Farmer, King and Mooneyham are all 12.

"It's exciting," King said. "We worked really hard. It took us a while to do it, but we finally got it right."