Idaho students prepare to launch a project in space | Southern Idaho Education
JAKOB THORINGTON POST REGISTER
REXBURG — A dozen eighth-grade students from a baker at Madison Junior High School sat anxiously Wednesday morning as they stared at the box NASA had sent them to work on their space project, eagerly waiting to see its contents.
“Oohs” and “aahs” escaped their mouths as they opened the package and got their hands on what was inside. The process was akin to opening a space capsule sent back to Earth.
Inside the box were various NASA-related memorabilia to celebrate their accomplishment of being named one of the winners of the agency’s TechRise Student Challenge, which asked school children nationwide to build an experiment that can operate independently and collect data from the edge of space aboard a suborbital rocket. But the most important items in the box were NASA’s TechRise box and the flight simulator materials that the students will spend the next year working with to ensure that any medical supplies they place inside the box. interior would survive a rocket launch and space travel.
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Several students in the group didn’t have high hopes that NASA would choose their project with nearly 600 entries nationwide. Neva Telford, a Madison Junior High Science teacher and group coach, said the team was one of the latest winners revealed by NASA and the students exploded with joy when they saw the name of their project.
“It was really cool to see that they chose us out of so many different people,” band member Douglas Flamm said.
Thomas Sessions, another student in the group, said that as they brainstormed ideas for their project, they thought about the best way to send cargo to astronauts going on expeditions to the moon for future plans of NASA aiming to establish a base operated by a spacecraft in orbit around the moon.
“It’s not a question of whether they’re going to get there, it’s a question of when so we should be doing something useful for them,” Sessions said.
According to NASA’s Moon to Mars Overview article, the spacecraft, called Gateway, will lay the groundwork for private companies to build a lunar economy so NASA can prepare for humanity’s next giant leap – sending astronauts on Mars.
The Madison Junior High School team’s project is called Gateway Shipping and seeks to determine the best biodegradable packaging materials to protect medical supplies being shipped to and from space. In the group’s written proposal to NASA, they included a prototype of the TechRise box made out of K’nex toys. Telford said the students nailed the prototype in size as she held it next to the TechRise box, the two boxes being about 4 inches by 4 inches by 8 inches.
Many students look to STEM fields, including aerospace, architecture, and engineering, for their future careers. The project seemed like a fun way to get involved in an extracurricular activity while also getting a potential resume boost, said James Tedjamulia, another student working on the project.
“I think the project could really help me, especially since I want to do engineering and we’re going to talk to real engineers,” Tedjamulia said.
Band member Ace Ingram said he was glad he decided to get involved with the project, as the experience was fun and worth the time they put in. Tedjamulia shared similar thoughts.
“Don’t be afraid to try new things,” Tedjamulia said.
NASA has given the group $1,500 to work on their project over the next year and they will have regular meetings with a mentor from the agency to help them. Their first meeting with the mentor is February 9, and the flight test from a NASA-assigned location is scheduled for 2023.