High Plains students to send Loveland science experiment into space – Loveland Reporter-Herald

A group of High Plains School students show off their science experiment Monday at the Loveland school. The experiment, which will test the effects of microgravity on seed germination, will be sent to the International Space Station this year. Clockwise from right are Lee Soyland, 13, Aidan Gonzalez, 13, Zachary Collins, 13, Mael Webb, 12, and Connor Green, 12. (Jenny Sparks/Loveland Reporter-Herald)

High Plains School students were selected to send an experiment to the International Space Station to compare how a plant would grow when a seed was germinated in space rather than on Earth.

“This has to be an organic seed,” said 12-year-old Mael Webb, staring intently at the laptop Monday morning. “Otherwise it won’t pass toxicology.”

Webb and four other students, 12-year-old Connor Green and 13-year-olds Lee Soyland, Aidan Gonzalez and Zachary Collins, who were selected to send their experiment into outer space, discussed suppliers from which to purchase pumpkin seeds that would travel to the International space station.

The process of the experiment mirrors the procedures that professional scientists use to test hypotheses, including the astronauts who work on the space station.

Students will fill a specialized test tube with water and pumpkin seeds that can be combined by an astronaut on a specific day. On the same day the students will plant a seed here on Earth and eventually the seed sent into space will be sent back to the High Plains for the students to compare the two.

The students, as well as professional scientists, made several revisions to their proposed experiment after receiving feedback from a national review board at the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education, which sponsored the experiment.

Some of these include changing the seeds used in the experiment from pumpkin seeds to pumpkin seeds that fit better in the test tubes the students will be using. Others include the specific seeds used, as discussed Monday morning, and testing the experiment before it enters space to ensure effective results.

“There’s going to be more water than seeds here,” Soyland explained, pointing to various parts of the plastic tube. “So we’ll have the seed here and the water here. And when it goes into space, the astronaut will open that up so the water can flow out, they’ll shake it a little bit, it’ll germinate the seed, and then it’ll just sit there for a little while, it’ll germinate, it’ll do things with seeds. Then it will return to Earth, we will take out the seed, put it in soil and let it grow.

The experiment will be sent into space this spring or summer and will return to Earth a few days later to be planted by the students.

At the same time that the astronaut is doing this procedure on the space station, the students will plant their own seed here on earth using the exact same procedure to possibly compare the two for similarities and differences.

“It’s even the same kind of sequencing tube,” Soyland added.

The process involved, according to Lindy Jones, High Plains’ project-based learning coordinator, is indistinguishable from how professional scientists conduct experiments on the space station.

“It’s real,” she said. “It’s not maybe. Really.”

Jones asked the students about potential applications of their research, and they pointed to Ridley Scott’s 2015 film The Martian, starring Matt Damon, where Damon successfully grows crops on Mars long enough to be rescued.

“For future space travel, we might travel to Mars or something to set up colonies, and then you’ll realize you can’t grow potatoes…” Soyland muses.

As for what the students expected their plant to look like after the seed returned from space, they had a sense of humor.

“There’s going to be like aliens coming out of it,” Collins laughed.

“He’ll be able to talk,” Soyland joked.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *