The Sky’s No Limit: BA experiment headed into outer space
Published 11:06 am Wednesday, April 30, 2014
Five seniors from Brookhaven Academy have received the distinction of having the scientific experiment they proposed in the Flight Experiment Design Competition sent on a mission to the international space station.
From the beginning these students had a vision that their proposal was going to be chosen and they would be on the road to Washington, D.C.
Garrett Smith, Ruth Vaughan, Samantha Barton, Lindsey Winborne, and Ashlea Bardwell will travel to Washington, D.C., for the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program National Conference at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.
The Brookhaven Academy team had one of 15 student experiments that competed with students from all across the U.S. Barton explained that their entry is the only one from Mississippi to have gotten into the space flight.
“Our proposal was also the only proposal that did not need revision in the final round of judging,” Barton said. The students said they thank science teachers Leslie Hood and Dr. Dianne Watson for that.
They also got the help of research scientist Dr. Donna Sullivan at University Medical Center. Barton said Sullivan was a great teacher and helped the students with the details of putting scientific data into a written proposal.
“She read over our proposal and helped us get the scientific data down and helped us make it coherent,” she said. The proposal was then sent to SSEP where the finalists are chosen.
The student’s proposal involved the Ralstonia eutropha bacteria. The students said that on earth the bacteria makes a plastic. They wanted to see if it would do the same in zero gravity.
So, on June 10 when the next mission leaves for the International Space Station their work will be on board. They will have a control in Sullivan’s lab where they will go to do research when their zero-gravity control returns to earth. They will compare the two samples and take their findings to the conference on July 4.
Barton said the group is honored to be selected. “We are going to be presenting a scholarly finding at a major scientific event, so it’s a great honor,” Barton said.
Barton said the experience has been rewarding and reinforces her decision to go into medical lab research.
“We got to see a lab,” Barton said. “And, we got to do things in the lab that we couldn’t have done in the classroom. And most important for me, we got to see what Dr. Sullivan does.”
Vaughan, who plans to study psychology at Mississippi College, said her teammates were all conscientious about the project and she gained greater perspective in the field of science.
“It was very time consuming,” she said, “no one in the group was slacking, that’s for sure. It was worth it because we explored different aspects of science, which was very interesting for me.”
But, all the team members agree that the trip to D.C. is the best part of the whole experience. Vaughan explains.
“From the beginning we said, ‘We are going to Washington,'” she said. “It was our vision. We didn’t let anyone tell us that we weren’t. We were determined we were the ones going.”