September 14, 2012

Valley Center a candidate for Student Spaceflight Experiment Program

Valley Center students will get their chance to send an experiment to the International Space Station.

Valley Center students will get their chance to send an experiment to the International Space Station.

Officials said the school reached its fundraising goal this week, securing $20,000 in donations and pledges to be part of Mission 3 of the Student Spaceflight Experiment Program.

Principal Jamie Lewis said he plans to announce the achievement and thank contributors during a brief ceremony at Friday’s football game between Valley Center and Maize South.

“We’re so grateful to everyone who’s stepped up and helped us out with this,” Lewis said.

Valley Center was one of two dozen communities to be accepted as a candidate for the program, which is designed to give students hands-on experience designing, building, testing and conducting experiments for space flight.

Starting next week, students enrolled in mid- to upper-level science classes will work in teams to brainstorm experiments that could be tested in low gravity. A review board will narrow the experiments to three finalists.

One microgravity experiment from each of the participating schools will be selected to fly in low Earth orbit and then on to the International Space Station in early April.

“To say that I’m excited would be a severe understatement,” said Cory Gibson, superintendent of Valley Center schools, in an e-mail.

“This project falls in line with our district’s goal to provide as many opportunities as possible for our students to apply their learning in real life situations.”

Lewis, the principal, said members of his science department already have met via videoconference with program officials to review student projects from previous missions.

Next week, they’ll begin brainstorming with students about possibilities for their low-gravity experiments. Possibilities include seed germination, crystal growth, cell biology, food studies and studies of micro-aquatic life.

As part of the project, all students in the Valley Center district will be invited to design a “mission patch” for the winning experiment. The patch will travel to the space station alongside the experiment.

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