Twenty students enrolled in the International Space Station class at Oaks Christian Middle School had a busy year working on designs for experiments that were sent to the International Space Station (ISS) this spring as part of a unique partnership with the Quest Institute.

The experiments ran for 30 days, during which time students received regular data downloads. The focus of these investigations was heat management, an important topic when it comes to living and working in space. One of the most intriguing aspects of the project was to compare the ground-based results to those from the ISS.

“Since gravity drives convection on Earth, it was interesting to learn about what happens in a zero gravity situation.” said seventh-grader Chase Meyer.

Over the course of the school year, the connection between education and real world application was 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. The students were engaged and captivated by the partnership as it allowed them to see a direct application of their classroom effort in real life.

“I found it really interesting to write a program for something that was actually 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 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 had to be really precise and everything had 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. Oak Christian School has made a commitment to strengthen this area of the curriculum.

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, agreed, “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 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 of science.

In addition to the ISS partnership, in prior years OCS middle schoolers have also been privileged to do a real time Skype with a NASA astronaut as part of their curriculum.