Out of This World: KPS Student-Designed Experiment to be Carried Out on International Space Station; Summit's Abigail Wall Part of Project Team

Front row, from left: Abigail Wall of Summit, Alexandra Anderson, Olivia Adamczyk, and Nora Lee. Back row, from left: Elizabeth Wyshner, Aya Mtume, and Isabella Diaz. Credits: Kent Place School

SUMMIT, NJ - Summit's Abigail Wall, a Fifth-grader at Kent Place School (KPS) -- along with three classmates and three KPS Seventh graders  -- contributed to a student-designed experiment that will be carried out on the International Space Station (ISS) next fall.

The project is part of KPS' partnership with The National Center for Earth and Space Science Education. The group designed an experiment titled, "Tiny Wings of Glory" that was selected from a pool of 99 proposals submitted by KPS students as part of the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP). Three-hundred Kent Place students in grades five through eleven participated in SSEP Mission 10.

The design team included Seventh graders, Isabella Diaz of Roselle Park, Aya Mtume of Orange, Elizabeth Wyshner of Short Hills, and fifth graders Olivia Adamczyk of Bernardsville, Alexandra Anderson of Chatham, Nora Lee of Short Hills and Wall of Summit. 

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The experiment will test the role of gravity in the development of Vanessa cardui, commonly known as Painted Lady Butterflies.

“Gravity plays a part in the metamorphosis process of butterflies because the butterflies have to suspend upside-down in order to pupate correctly. Since there is no up or down in microgravity, the cocoons may have a hard time,” the students explained.

Astronauts will preserve the butterflies shortly after they should have matured into the chrysalis stage during their stay aboard the International Space Station next fall. The students will also perform the same experiment on Earth in order to observe the differences between both specimens.

“This has truly been an amazing journey,” said Jim Flakker, Kent Place Science Department Chair. “I've been watching the students working through a process of problem solving and revising, their ideas have really taken off. It has been so great to walk around the hallways and overhear students talking about their science experiments all the time. There is such a buzz of excitement.”

Though their experiments will not be carried out on the ISS, two other Kent Place groups were chosen as finalists in the program. Ninth graders Tarika Bansal, Isabella Racioppi and Kailee Saunders were selected as finalists for their project, "Astronauts Feel thing in their guts too: Studying the Effects of Microgravity on Microbial Habitats in Human Digestion;" and Eighth graders Liz Cotter, Erin Green, Adrianna Guarino and Maya Vuchic were finalists for "Generation Regeneration: Cellular Activity in Microgravity."

All students grades Kindergarten through Grade 12 also had the opportunity to take part in the Mission Patch competition in support of the winning Student Spaceflight Experiments Program finalists. The winning patch in the Kindergarten through Grade 5 competition was designed by fifth grader Elina Kapur.

The winning patch in Grades 5-9 competition was designed in collaboration by ninth grade students Caroline Benou, Charlotte Crutchlow, Sarah Garde, Sejal Gude, Anna Hogarth, Keerthi Jayaraman, Emma Littlejohn, Sarah McDowell and Amber White. The selected mission patches will accompany the winning experiment and fly to the International Space Station as well.

The two Kent Place groups, "Tiny Wings of Glory" and "Generation Regeneration: Cellular Activity in Microgravity," will be presenting their experiments on June 29 and 30 at the Air & Space Smithsonian in Washington, D.C.

The SSEP is undertaken by the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education (NCESSE) in partnership with NanoRacks, LLC. This on-orbit educational research opportunity is enabled through NanoRacks, LLC, which is working in partnership with NASA under a Space Act Agreement as part of the utilization of the International Space Station as a National Laboratory.

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