BISD space program

Academy at Nolan Dunn students participated in the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program Mission 9 at the International Space Station last year. The Puzzling Polymer team is one of six fifth grade students whose experiment is on the flight for SSEP Mission 9 to ISS. From left are Bryston Baker, Kylie Morton, Westley Mitchell, fifth-grade teacher Susan Mundt and Delaney Storey.

Burleson ISD announced the kickoff of the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program Mission 9 to the International Space Station on Wednesday.

Launched in June 2010, SSEP is a U.S. National Science, Technology, Engineering and Math education program that lets students — in every step of their own scientific research — create an experiment for the space flight opportunity on the ISS.

The program is designed to inspire and engage the next generation of scientists and engineers, and is accomplished by providing each participating community their own real Space Program.

Last year, the Puzzling Polymer team from the Academy at Nola Dunn in Burleson was one of six fifth-grade teams whose experiment is on the flight for SSEP Mission 7 to ISS. Fifth-grade reading teacher Susan Mundt and students Bryston Baker, Westley Mitchell, Kylie Morton and Delaney Story were part of the team.

The experiment asked, “What are the effects of hydrogel polymers when mixed with water in microgravity v. on Earth?” There will be a new experiment in  November.

“We are thrilled to introduce the U.S. Space Program to students at such a young age and get started on Mission 9 experiments,” BISD Chief Academic Innovation Officer Dr. Leslie Bender Jutzi said. “Last year was a major success, as our students were able to present their experiments at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. We can’t wait to see what this year brings.”

BISD Director of Communications Mikala Hill said now in its second year, SSEP has seen the number of participants quadruple to more than 1,200 participants within the district.

SSEP Mission 9 to ISS provides a real research mini-laboratory to support a single microgravity experiment. All launch services are to fly the mini-lab to ISS in the spring and return it to Earth for harvesting and analysis.

Student teams across the community can submit research proposals and go through a formal proposal review process to select the flight experiment. The design competition — from program start to experiment design to submission of proposals by student teams — spans nine weeks from Monday to Nov. 6.

Student teams are able to design experiments across many fields, including: seed germination, crystal growth, physiology and life cycles of microorganisms, cell biology and growth, food studies and studies of micro-aquatic life, Hill said.

Flight experiments are selected by Dec. 17 for a ferry flight to ISS in the spring.

For more information about the SSEP, visit ssep.ncesse.org.

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