Twenty students enrolled in the International Space Station class at Oaks Christian Middle School have been busily working to finalize designs for experiments that are scheduled to be sent to the ISS in March 2017. The experiments will run for 30 days during which time students will receive regular data downloads. The focus of these investigations is heat management, an important topic when it comes to living and working in space. One of the most intriguing aspects of the project will be to compare the ground-based results to those from the ISS.
"Since gravity drives convection on Earth, it will be interesting to learn about what happens in a zero gravity situation. I really don't know what's going to happen," said seventh-grader Chase Meyer.
Over the course of the school year, the connection between education and real world application has been supported by a classroom visit from a SpaceX engineer as well as regular hands-on experiences with building the software and hardware for the experiments.
"I found it really interesting to write a program for something that will actually be going into space," said eighth-grader Max Mitterberger who entered the program with an extensive knowledge of computer coding. "Usually, when I write a program, it is for fun or entertainment rather than scientific purposes."
Along the way, students have discovered that in the process of doing science, persistence and troubleshooting are necessities for success. As noted by seventh-grader Christy Gibson, "In order for the experiments to work, we have to be really precise and everything has to be in just the right place on the circuit boards."
In a broader sense, the program is designed to support the national push to advance STEM disciplines in education–preparing students for careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
As eighth- grader Sterling Drummond explained, "This class allows us as kids to have more exposure to the advanced sciences of today and will give us a head start on working on the science of tomorrow." Fellow eighth- grader, Ally Hannagan, agrees, "The ISS program gives us an in-depth view of the world of science in space, imbedding a deep curiosity at a young age and allowing us to challenge ourselves and see our potential."
This is the first year students in seventh and eighth grade at Oaks Christian School have participated in this program designed by the Quest Institute in partnership with NASA and Microsoft. Over 50 students applied to take part in this specialized course led by last year's OCS Middle School Teacher of the Year Dale Spady. Spady has been working at Oaks Christian for over 15 years, providing outstanding opportunities for young men and women to develop their love for studying science.