Jay Eitner, Superintendent, Taking Local Science into Space

A science teacher who takes great pride in space exploration brought the program to Jay Eitner’s attention.

Using eggplant seeds, a new experiment is lifting towards space aboard the International Space Station (ISS). The winning students designed the experiment titled “Galaxy Eggplants,” which is currently scheduled for launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on August 1, 2017. The experiment was chosen from over 50 proposals submitted as part of The National Center for Earth and Space Science Education’s Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP).

The program was brought to Jay Eitner’s attention from a science teacher who takes great pride in space exploration. “Once we saw that sending one of our projects to space was possible, we immediately got to work.” Eitner stated. “We immediately began to seek creative ways in order to fund the project. Everything from shoe collection to dessert fundraisers were established to help pay.” The project also had over $10,000 in grants secured in local, state, and federal grants and partnerships.

SSEP provides students with the most realistic scientific work experience. This competition mimics the process of scientists responding to a ‘call for proposals’ and provides two very unique educational opportunities. The students must first pose an interesting scientific question regarding the nature of the physical, chemical or biological system. Then, through collaboration, they must engineer an experiment that can answer that question within the stated experiment specifications and operational constraints. SSEP helps students develop the skills necessary to become leaders in the next generation workforce.

The project, “Galaxy Eggplants”, tests the results of microgravity on eggplant seeds while in space. Astronauts aboard the ISS will test the seeds in low Earth orbit. The students will also perform a control experiment on Earth in order to observe the differences between both experiments. Students feel the results of the test could be significant in furthering the understanding of plant growth in space, which could be a step toward sustaining human life in space. Students from Superintendent Jay Eitner’s former district will be presenting their experiments this summer at the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum in Washington, D.C. “I couldn’t be more proud”, Jay Eitner stated. “Kids first, always. It’s why we are here.”

The 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. SSEP is the first pre- college STEM education program that is both a U.S. national initiative and implemented as an on-orbit commercial space venture.

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