A group of STEM Academy students have developed a science experiment that will lift-off in to space aboard the Orbital Sciences Cygnus spacecraft on Dec. 15.

A group of eight students started the science project last year. Now as sophomores, they will observe the results of their experiment after it spends six weeks in space.

STEM is the Downingtown Area School District’s high school for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathmatics.

The student group includes Conor McGrath, Christina Murray, Jenni Faust, Cecilla Padilla and Santina Zouras.

STEM students designed an experiment to study the release rate of a common medication in microgravity. The students will determine the results of how long a person’s body takes to digest and dissolve medication, in an anti-gravity environment.

The experiment is part of a nationwide program, the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program. The experiment by STEM students is one of 23 student projects that will go into space for students to observe. Astronauts will conduct the experiments during a six-week stay.

STEM Academy teachers Eric Daney and Justin Staub said the student-team will conduct the same experiment on earth.

The teachers explained that this allows students to collect data to compare microgravity on certain medications on earth and in space.

The experiment goal is to determine if there is a difference in the results of use from Earth or space.

“It’s about asking questions, exploring and designing experiments to answer those questions,” Daney said.

Roughly 600 STEM students helped or participated. STEM students submitted 75 proposals in March 2012 to the national program.

Staub said the experiment promotes the application of skill, critical thinking, investigative research and problem solving.

“Science is not just a book of knowledge,” Daney said.

Daney said the challenge was presented to the students to ask themselves what questions they wanted to seek answers for. Students were asked what intrigued them. Students worked together to find out what they would need to know, in order to create an experiment.

“It’s about asking questions, exploring and designing experiments to answer those questions,” Daney said.

Staub said all of the students looked at the constraints of project before they created an experiment. This includes how the experiment will be completed in a small space.

In the proposal selected for program, Staub said the students were curious if everyday medicine would work in outer space.

Daney and Staub said the experiment began as a law and gravity class assignment. It allowed the students to create and design their own experiment.

Continue reading Downingtown students provide spacecraft experiment.

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