Students in northern Colorado had a unique chance to work with an astronaut from their hometown while also competing for the opportunity to have their own experiment launched into space.
The Go For Launch! program, recently held at Fort Collins High School, attracted 55 students interested in space and science. The three-day event was brought in by Higher Orbits, a nonprofit that promotes leadership and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) skills.
During the workshop, student teams collaborated and developed proposals for space experiments. One proposal was selected to move on to be judged by a team of NASA and Aerospace industry engineers against the three other winners from Go For Launch! competitions in Illinois, Ohio, and Arizona. The overall winning experiment will be launched into space and be on board the International Space Station for a minimum of 30 days.
The winning experiment selected at the FCHS Go For Launch! event involves studying zucchini in space and the effects of microgravity and radiation on decomposition. The idea came from FCHS students Ashley Zhou, Jen Siripachana, Bibiana Delacruz-Stewart, Catherine Liu, Maggie Hubbeling, and Megan Liu. The goal of their experiment is to use the data to create more efficient ways of decomposing waste, creating environmentally friendly energy sources, and increasing public awareness of the space program.
“Knowing that our experiment might be launched in space is incredible...To have an opportunity in high school to work with an astronaut is really cool,” said senior Maggie Hubbeling, who has been interested in space and science for as long as she can remember.
“Ever since I was a kid, I’ve read books about astronauts…Growing up in Colorado, I spent a lot of time outside…watching the stars and finding constellation,” said Hubbeling, who hopes to study aerospace engineering in college and eventually work for NASA.
For FCHS junior Elijah Willas, the weekend space study helped him learn more about his interests. After graduation, he plans to attend college and then wants to shoot for working at NASA.
“I’ve been interested in NASA since the second grade,” said Willas. “I love the idea of geology in space.”
A highlight for all students was having astronaut and 1993 Fort Collins High graduate Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger talk about her 15 days in space and how she reached her dream of becoming an astronaut.
Growing up, she loved science and attended Space Camp. At Boltz Junior High, she made a model of the Space Shuttle Discovery.
“I think it’ s important to have something visual for your goals,” said Metcalf-Lindenburger., showing a picture of her model to students.
After college, she became a high school science teacher. While teaching a class one day, a student asked her a question that led her back to her dream of being an astronaut.
“A student asked, ‘How do you go to the bathroom in space?’ That question got me back on track to being an astronaut…While researching the answer to that, I found the answer to my own life dream,” she said, adding that she discovered that as a teacher, she could apply to be an astronaut. “I thought ‘How can I ask my students to go after their dreams if I won’t even go after my big dreams?’”
Twenty years after she made the space shuttle model she found herself on board that very vehicle she made a replica of, on her way to the International Space Station.
FCHS science teacher Rick Blas,who helped coordinate the Go For Launch! event, said it was a great experience for the students to be able to work with Metcalf-Lindenburger.
“It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to work with an astronaut who flew on a space shuttle,” said Blas. “She’s the first Lambkin in space and I hope she won’t be the last.”
Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger flew as a Mission Specialist on STS-131 and served as Commander of NASA’s Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO) 16 mission. She is one of four educator astronauts to fly in space and continues to be an active advocate for STEM programs. To learn visit http://www.astronautdorothymetcalflindenburger.com/
Higher Orbits is a 501(c)3 non-profit with the mission of promoting Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM); along with leadership, teamwork, and communication through the use of spaceflight. Mankind's journey into space serves as an ideal launchpad to excite students of all ages about STEM and working to fulfill their dreams and ambitions. Higher Orbits uses a variety of programs and partnerships with other organizations to achieve these goals and is excited to be holding events across the US in 2017. To learn more visit http://www.HigherOrbits.org