School kid scientists propose experiments for International Space Station

By  Merry R. Buckley | November 29, 2018

The opportunity to send a science experiment into orbit drew dozens of children and their families to Space Night at Case Middle School in Watertown, New York, Nov. 9. Student teams from after-school programs in Jefferson County, many of whom worked with scientist advisers at Cornell, presented their proposals for experiments that could be delivered to the International Space Station next summer.

Three proposals were selected to go to the next level of the competition, in which the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP) National Step 2 Review Board will select one experiment for flight.

“I was flooded with excitement,” said finalist sixth-grader Agnika Ghatak, whose team proposal examines how rust might be removed from a surface in the microgravity environment of the space station. “I tried as hard as I could not to scream out loud.”

Peter Jennings, an 11-year-old at Wiley Intermediate School in Watertown, shows off his experiment proposal, Mission Lyme Disease, as part of Cornell Cooperative Extension of Jefferson County’s Space Night.

All students in after-school programs that Cornell Cooperative Extension of Jefferson County (CCE Jefferson) administers – in 16 different schools across eight districts – had the opportunity to develop a proposal. As kids and parents blasted paper rockets into the air and tried out other hands-on activities in the bustling gymnasium, Mitch McCormick, CCE Jefferson’s 4-H after-school director, said, “The biggest challenge is that the experiment focus could be whatever kids chose it to be.”

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