Local science project in space

Dec 10, 2010, 2:54 AM | Updated: Mar 28, 2011, 3:46 pm

Endeavor When the Space Shuttle Endeavor blasts off for its final mission next year it will be carrying an experiment from a local high school.

Fifteen projects were chosen out of 450 submitted for a national competition, and Ballard High School students designed one of the winning experiments.

Bio-tech and astronomy students from BHS created an experiment to test the effects of space flight on bacteria, like Ecoli.

“We’re going to send the bacteria up into space and they’ll grow for two weeks. Once we get them back we’ll perform a whole bunch of different tests on them to see how they grew differently than bacteria grown here on earth,” says student Danny Thompson, a junior who worked on the project. “What we’re looking at specifically is the rate at which they grew and the mutation rate.”

Paul Menendez, also in 11th grade, explains what they’ll do with the information. “Maybe make some inferences what life might do if we moved and started growing things out in low gravity situations,” he says.

Sarah Culp, a junior, is excited because the project data will continue to be useful for many years after she graduates from high school.

“If all goes well we could have this original colony that was up in space in Ballard to have further students do experiments on,” she says.

Standing in room 220 at BHS, the students talked about growth patterns they’ve already observed in bacteria grown in the micro-gravity simulators the built.

I honestly didn’t understand the details, because I was absorbing their energy and enthusiasm.

“Wow, I actually get to take part in an experiment that’s going into space. That’s coming this close to going there myself,” says Lewis Jensen, a BHS sophomore

These students have what every parent wants for their children – something that gets them charged up in school.

“I’ve got kids of my own,” says Eric Muhs, their teacher. “As parents, as teachers would like our kids to find some passion somewhere and pursue it. You find something you like to do, and you do it for awhile and you look around and you realize you’re as good as anybody doing this particular thing. You can become an expert in something.”

These kids have found their “thing” through science. There are more students like Danny, Paul, Sarah and Lewis than you ever hear about in the news.

“The people who do care I feel like don’t get enough attention because they’re good kids. You don’t hear about them they’re doing their work, they’re getting their A’s,” says Jensen. “It’s the kids who act out, criminals, juvenile delinquents who are more newsworthy.” Jensen “gets it” with the media.

I think these Seattle kids who have an experiment going up with the Space Shuttle Endeavor in February of 2011 are newsworthy, and pretty cool too.

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Local science project in space