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Santa Monica Middle School Students' Project Could Be Headed To Orbit

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By Hector Gonzalez
Special to The Lookout

November 16, 2015 -- If all systems are go, eighth-grade students from Lincoln Middle School could have one of their experiments tested aboard the International Space Station next spring, District officials announced last week.

Teams of student at Lincoln spent hours testing, researching and developing their ideas for the chance to have their completed “micro-gravity” experiments conducted aboard the ISS through the Student Space Flight Experiments Program (SSEP).

The students are vying for a chance to have their experiment included in SSFEP's Mission 9 to the ISS in March 2016, District officials said.

“It has taken a tremendous amount of time and effort for student teams to produce their formal proposals for Mission 9,” said Gretchen Gies McLaughlin an English language arts instructor at the school.

Earlier this month, teachers and scientists evaluated 80 micro-gravity experiments that were researched, tested and presented as formal written proposals by teams of Lincoln Middle students.

From those projects, 30 finalists were selected for a final evaluation, which is scheduled on Thursday, November 19, at the school, said Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District spokeswoman Gail Pinsker.

That day, three finalist teams will be selected to have their experiments move on to the final competition in Washington, D.C., where the experiments selected to go into space will be announced in December, said SSFEP's website.

Launched in June 2010 by the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education, SSEP gives students the opportunity to design and propose real experiments to fly in low Earth orbit about the space station.

Student teams can design experiments across diverse fields, including seed germination, crystal growth, physiology and life cycles of micro-organisms, cell biology and growth, food studies and studies of micro-aquatic life, according to SSFEP's website.

“SSEP is about introducing real science to our children, and if you give them a chance to be scientists, stand back and be amazed,” said Dr. Jeff Goldstein, creator of the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education.

Lincoln Middle administrators and teachers are using the SSEP as part of the school’s science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM education initiative, Pinsker said.

SSEP helps “link three of the district’s academic programs in STEM, English language arts and visual arts,” she added

“STEM reflects the modern-day workforce and it’s encouraging to see our students’ strong performance in the space program competition,” said SMMUSD Superintendent Sandra Lyon.

“Our goal is that the students acquire a deeper conceptual understanding of science and writing in as many practical contexts as possible,” Lyon said.

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