Five Ballenas Secondary School students aim to fundraise for two trips to the United States to promote their science experiment that will head to the International Space Station in June.
The students’ experiment, titled Investigating the Growth Patterns of Alfalfa (Medicago sativa) Sprouts in Microgravity: a Potential Nourishment for Future Manned Spaceflight, is part of the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP), an initiative based in the United States. A panel of judges reviewed experiment proposals, developed by students in Grades 4 to 12, and chose three for submission to the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education (NCESSE).
Marco Loffredi, Victor Kamel, Robert Lachance, Alexander Marshall and Filipe Pereira, will have their science experiment travel to space.
“After about one month of co-ordination and hard work involving science analysis, preliminary experiments and consulting professional advisors, our group submitted a proposal that would go on to win it,” Robert Lachance told Parksville city council at a Feb. 20 meeting hosted at Ballenas school.
Alex Marshall told councillors the five-member group and one teacher have been invited to assist with the launch at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida where they will also present a scientific poster to NASA.
“Afterward we have been asked to hold a conference at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, DC to present out findings to NASA scientists and the general public,” Marshall said. “This project puts a great spotlight on the community and the school, as well as setting good examples to other students wishing to pursue the field of science.”
The group hopes to raise $17,000 for the two trips to the United States.
“Even though we expect to pay for a portion of the trip ourselves, we are launching fundraising efforts to help subsidize our endeavour,” said group member Victor Kamel. “It would be a shame if after all this effort we cannot complete the experience due to financial reasons.”
The group plan to give more presentations on their experiment to community organizations and businesses in an effort to raise more funds for their trips.
A GoFundMe page (www.gofundme.com/sprouts-in-space) has been started and donations can be made to Ballenas Secondary School.
Parksville councillors had only good things to say and words of praise for the students following their presentation.
“I think if you go to any of our service clubs in the area I think you’ll get a great response. I think you have a very, very bright future ahead,” said Coun. Teresa Patterson as she handed the group a $100 bill.
Coun. Al Greir followed suit and donated $100, as well as Coun. Mark Chandler committing to a $100 donation and Coun. Marilyn Wilson announcing she’d donate too.
Other student delegations included the Ballenas Model UN club who presented a demonstration of a model UN conference and the Ballenas Special Education Physical Education class and Special Olympics team presented on their inclusive sports teams, including soccer and basketball.