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Australian students to lead International Space Station experiments

Australian students to lead International Space Station experiments

"Forget global classrooms, this is galactic classrooms," says the school's director of e-learning and education technology, Matt Richards

Students from St Columba Anglican School in NSW will participate in experiments on the International Space Station (ISS).

NanoRacks, a US-based organisation that works on the ISS, contacted the school’s director of e-learning and education technology, Matt Richards, through Twitter to ask if students from the school would be interested in participating in experiments for the ISS.

There were two other schools in Australia and a Christian college in the United States also selected to participate.

“Students are going to be working with astronauts in real time in the ISS. Forget global classrooms, this is galactic classrooms – we’ve taken it to the next level,” said Richards.

NanoLabs, the series of experiments that students will participate in, will run for 30 days over nine months, starting later this year. The experiments will mostly fall into three categories:

  • Technology demonstration: Air, water, surface monitoring, radiation measurement, communication and navigation, satellite technologies, spacecraft materials, robotics and imaging, orbital environment, avionics and software.
  • Biology and biotechnology: Microbiology/cellular, animal biology, plant biology.
  • Physical sciences: Combustion science, material science and astronomy.

The mission of the project is to promote and support the education experience of students in science, technology, maths and engineering.

“This program could not have come at a better time. We need to encourage students in the fields of technology and science. I cannot think of a cooler way to do that than ISS space experiments,” said Richards.

The idea is to not only expose students to cutting edge technology and allow them to conduct their own experiments, but also to teach them engineering, project management and design skills. Students will also learn how to analyse data and communicate their hypothesis and results.

The Australian Space Research Institute (ASRI) and NanoRacks are partners for the student-led experiments. The schools need to fund the US$15-35,000 for the experiments, but ASRI will assist in sourcing funding from state and federal governments and third parties.

Students at St Columba Anglican School are also experimenting with new technologies such as the Oculus Rift to build virtual maps and games in the school’s makerspace.

Follow Rebecca Merrett on Twitter: @Rebecca_Merrett

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