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Kerr Team Named SSEP Mission 15 Experiment Finalist & Patch Design Winners Announced

Experiment Moves to Flight Operations Phase

Kerr Middle School’s “The Effect of Microgravity on Cellular Regeneration of the Planarian Flatworm” team is named the flight team for the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP) Mission 15 to the International Space Station (ISS). The team has until February 11, 2021 for experiment testing, refinement, and optimization before submitting the Final Flight Safety Review Form and all experiment details for the NASA Flight Safety Review.

The Mission 15 patch design winners are Malia McDonell from The Academy of the Arts at Bransom Elementary, and Jordan Campell from Centennial High School.

More than 210 experiment proposals from Burleson Independent School District (BISD) students spanning grades 6-7 were submitted for SSEP Mission 15. This represented more than 1,100 students engaged in active scientific research in which the student researchers asked a question about the long term effects of microgravity on astronauts and about the impacts of deep space exploration, identified the information and steps needed to answer that question, then designed an experiment to test it.

At BISD’s Virtual Space Night Symposium, Local Step 1 Review judges poured over student team submissions to determine three finalist experiments to advance to the SSEP Mission 15 Step 2 Review Board. Typically, the Step 2 Review Board consists of professionals and professors from prestigious institutions such as the University of Maryland, the National Institutes of Health, Uniformed Services University, Loyola University, NASA Research and Education support services, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Johns Hopkins University, George Washington University, and Institute Director and Program Managers from the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education, although this Mission’s Step 2 Review Board was smaller due to the impacts of Covid-19. Teams selected by our local Step 1 Review Board take on the additional task of refining their experiments based on the advice of our local experts and SSEP Senior Flight Operations Manager Stacy Hamel. This requires several additional days of focused attention on the experiment design. The SSEP Mission 15 top three experiment teams included:

Kerr Middle School: The Effect of Microgravity on Cellular Regeneration of the Planarian Flatworm - Winning Team
Teacher Facilitator: Jonathan Hawley - Bernardez
Co-Principal Investigators: Camden Morton, Santiago Rios Ordonez, Levi Robinson, Miguel Ruiz, and Brian Smith
Hughes Middle School: The Effect of Microgravity on Lima Bean Germination
Teacher Facilitator: Holly Adams
Co-Principal Investigators: Rylie Cline, Kaydan Dorman, Morgan Guidry, Peyton Martin, and Nicholas Munoz

Hughes Middle School: The Effect of Microgravity on the Germination Process of Brandywine tomato seeds.
Teacher co-facilitators: Courtney Curtis and Jonathon Smith
Co-Principal Investigators: Jaelyn Burrows & Morgan McAlpin
Co-Investigators: Nevaeh Nunez, Sarina Rouleau
Collaborator: Kierah Virgil

"Once again our teachers were able to guide students through microgravity experiment design and proposal writing, and student critical thinking pushed the envelope of experiment constraints!” said Stacy Hughes, BISD’s SSEP community program co-director. “Imagine being a 6th, or 7th grader and thinking through and designing an experiment that must fit in a 10 mL tube, with a maximum of 3 volumes, and must start and stop while in microgravity. It's difficult to think about, yet our students follow their curiosity every year and work through these constraints to design successful experiments. It is always amazing and exciting.”

The next top 5 experiment teams for SSEP Mission 15, in no particular order, also included:

The Effect of Microgravity on the Growth of philodendron bipinnatifidum
STEAM Middle School
Teacher Facilitator: Mrs. Molly Marek
Co-principal investigators: Eaves Welborn, Belen Sangsvang, Penelope Pittman, Nathan Visnjevic, Presley Shields

The Effect of Microgravity on the growth rate of Ant Larva
STEAM Middle School
Science Facilitator: Mrs. Chelsea Lentz
Co-principal investigators: Saul Guzman, Sawyer Holybee, Samuel Osorio

The Effect of Microgravity on Blood Thinning Effectivity
Kerr Middle School
Teacher Facilitator: Mr. Jonathan Hawley-Bernardez
Co-principal investigators: Anea Arriaza, Kole Bleeker, Alyssa Morrow, Layla Sherman, Garrett Walker

The Effect of Microgravity on Paedocypris Fish Egg Development
Kerr Middle School
Teacher Facilitator: Mrs. Allison Buckingham
Co-principal investigators: Morgan Atwell, Elissa Ferguson, Kennedy Harris, Eliana Saenz, Jeromiah Young

How does cell biology affect humans in space?
Hughes Middle School
Teacher Facilitator: Mrs. Holly Adams
Co-principal investigators: Daelyn Gonzales, Emma Griggs, Katie Quinn, Brennan Watson

For more information on Space Night or SSEP Mission 15, visit the SSEP website and see the Mission 15 SSEP Webinar with Dr. Goldstein found at the following link and review the information below:
SSEP is a U.S. National STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) education program that immerses students in every facet of authentic scientific research of their own design, using a highly captivating space flight opportunity on the International Space Station. SSEP Mission 15 to ISS provides a real research mini-laboratory capable of supporting a single microgravity experiment, and all launch services to fly the mini-lab to ISS, and return it safely to Earth for harvesting and analysis. Mirroring how professional research is done, student teams across the community 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 9 weeks.

About Student Spaceflight Experiments Program
The Student Spaceflight Experiments Program [or “SSEP”] is a program of the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education (NCESSE) in the U.S. and the Arthur C. Clarke Institute for Space Education internationally. It is enabled through a strategic partnership with DreamUp PBC and NanoRacks, LLC, which are working with NASA under a Space Act Agreement as part of the utilization of the International Space Station as a National Laboratory.

About National Center for Earth and Space Science Education
The National Center for Earth and Space Science Education (NCESSE) creates and oversees national initiatives addressing science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education, with a focus on Earth and space. Programs are designed to provide an authentic window on science as a human endeavor. Central objectives of the Center’s programs are to help ensure a scientifically literate public and a next generation of U.S. scientists and engineers - both of which are of national importance in an age of high technology. NCESSE is a project of the Tides Center. To learn more, visit:

About NanoRacks
NanoRacks LLC was formed in 2009 to provide quality hardware and services for the U.S. National Laboratory onboard the International Space Station. NanoRacks now has two research platforms onboard the U.S. National Laboratory that can house plug and play payloads using the Cube-Sat form factor. Our current signed customer pipeline of over 50 payloads, including domestic and international educational institutions, research organizations and government organizations, has propelled NanoRacks into a leadership position in understanding the emerging commercial market for low-earth orbit utilization.

About Burleson ISD
Burleson Independent School District serves more than 12,500 students at 18 schools and is recognized as a premier school district in the Dallas/Fort Worth-area. The mission of Burleson Independent School District is to engage and support every learner with a rigorous curriculum so that they graduate college and career ready.