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Coquitlam kids plan experiments for space

By Michael Mui, 24 Hours Vancouver

The International Space Station (ISS) is seen from NASA space shuttle Endeavour. 
Photo by NASA via Getty Images

The International Space Station (ISS) is seen from NASA space shuttle Endeavour. Photo by NASA via Getty Images

About 1,600 students in the Coquitlam School District are having their science classes turned upside down as kids race to come up with microgravity experiments to be conducted on board the International Space Station.

The Student Spaceflight Experiments Program — run by the National Centre for Earth and Space Science Education — lets students from Grade 5 to 12 design experiments that can fit into silicone tubes to be sent into space, where astronauts will carry them out.

Michelle Ciolfitto, co-ordinator of curriculum implementation for Coquitlam schools, said a single project will ultimately be selected.

“Teachers are teaching science differently. We’re implementing curriculum in a different way ... This is a real space program. This is what’s happening at the Canadian Space Agency,” she said.

“They could send up bacteria in a dormant state ... the astronaut can release a nutrient or something into the contact, the dried or dormant bacteria, and they’ll watch how quickly does the bacteria reproduce, is there benefit? Harm?

“Food in space is a huge issue. Astronauts are up there for a long time and plants are designed to figure out which way roots and leaves go because of gravity — at least partly — so what are some ways we can introduce plant growth up there?”

The students, working in small teams, have until Nov. 4 to come up with their designs. The top three would be sent to the NCESSE, who then chooses the best one.

The experiments, to fit into thin tubes about 10 centimetres long, are expected to be sent up via a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, launched from Florida in 2017.