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GCAA student experiments + Enterprise in Space = BLAST OFF!

Grand Center Arts Academy is going where it’s never gone before…into space! On a rocket!

GCAA, in partnership with Enterprise in Space, is sending student experiments into space on a rocket. The launch is May 20 from the Spaceport in New Mexico.

Students in Building Creative Confidence, taught by Andrew Goodin, had only a few days to prepare for the opportunity once they agreed to be involved. From watching videos online to video conferences with staff at EIS to thinking of ideas to pitch to classmates, there was a lot to do in a short amount of time. The class includes students in grades 6-8.

“In Building Creative Confidence, we are working on our Design Consultancy unit, where students apply design thinking to solve problems for others,” said Goodin. “This project was a natural fit for the unit.”

GCAA is the only school in the St. Louis area participating in the launch.

The rocket, EXOS Sarge, is being tested by EXOS Aerospace. The co-founder of the company, John Quinn, will be a guest speaker at the International Space Development Conference, which is in St. Louis at Union Station May 25-May 29. Quinn suggested a local team of students to participate in the launch. Through connections in the area, and with the help of Christine Nobbe, instructional coach at GCAA, the project was brought to the attention of Goodin. Fellow teachers Luke Stegmann and Alicia Dunn helped with the biology and physics aspects of the project, respectively.

The experiments are enclosed in small cube, 10cm3, or 10-centimeters cubed. It’s smaller than a tissue box, and packed with about 15 items – all brainstormed by students. When the rocket launches, it will leave the earth’s atmosphere, be in space for about 3 ½ minutes, then return to earth. In total, it’ll take about 20 minutes from the time the rocket blasts off to the time it lands.

What’s in the box? First, the box was created with a 3-D printer. The bright orange cube is filled with everyday items like gel pens, colored pencils, a pack of gum and sticky note pads, as well as small zipper bags with popcorn kernels, jalapeno seeds, sugar maple tree seeds, crayon shavings and paper, and vials of body lotion and sunscreen, a magnet and a radiation sensor. Each experiment has a purpose, but the main purpose is to find out what, if anything, happens when the items are exposed to being in space.

There are actually two boxes. The students created a replica box with the same experiments that will remain at school.

On launch day, students will watch a limited-access stream of the event online.

Days after the launch, the box will be back in St. Louis at ISDC. Once the box is returned to GCAA, the students will test their theories and compare differences or similarities.

Jordan Britt, eighth grade, was “super surprised” when the project was offered to the class. “I thought, ‘WOW!’ we’re sending something into space.”

Steven Like, eighth grade, said it’s “an opportunity of a lifetime to be part of something that’s going into space.”

Nobbe explained that this experience is “inspirational for anyone, especially young people. It can send students on a trajectory of being scientists, engineers, technologists and mathematicians working for NASA or any of the commercial companies doing interesting work in space.

“STEM careers are good careers – interesting, challenging, exciting and well-paying.”