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    BISD’s Space Night took place Nov. 8 at Centennial High School. More than 250 student-made projects were displayed. BURLESON STAR/NEETISH BASNET
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    Rich Overbeck from the Texas Space Grant Consortium talks to BISD students during Thursday’s Space Night at Centennial High School. BURLESON STAR/NEETISH BASNET

BISD’s Space Night was out of this world

Over 250 student-made science exhibits were on display Nov. 8 at Centennial High School, as the young minds behind the projects hoped to reach the heights of scientific research—to the Earth’s low orbit, to be exact.

Burleson Independent School District hosted the annual Space Night, where about 3,000 Burleson students, in different groups, presented their microgravity design experiment proposals to be judged by a panel of educators and science professionals.

The school district takes part in the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program, an international program which provides the opportunity for one student experiment to go onboard the International Space Station (ISS) in space. An actual astronaut will then conduct experiments and observe the effects of gravity on an object, specified by the selected student group.

“It gets them [students] curious about the world around them and it gets them asking questions, scientific questions,” said Stacy Hughes, district director of the Student Spaceflights Experiment Program. “We wanted it at this level because we want those students asking those questions early on. Because those questions lead to higher ones.”

After reviewing all the experiment proposals on Thursday, the judges select three student teams (yet to be announced publicly).

The three proposals will then go on to the next phase of judgment, Step 2 Review. A national selection committee assembled by National Center for Earth and Space Science Education-after a rigorous review process-will select one final proposal that eventually launches to space.

“This program generates interest,” Hughes said. “It taps into the curiosity of the student because all students are curious about space. The idea of sending something to the space station, that’s just an amazing thing.”

The National Center for Earth and Space Science Education anticipates officially revealing the final selected experiment from the school district by mid-December if one is selected from Burleson.

The Student Spaceflights Experiment Program Mission 13 with the selected experiment is expected to launch into space in spring 2019. Once transported to ISS, the student group’s experiment will be observed for as long as nine weeks and then returned back to Earth. The students will then have the chance to process and interpret the findings and present it in a formal research symposium at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington , D.C.

Hughes said such programs train the students to think more critically and provide experiences that help the future generations excel in fields related to science and technology.

Enthusiastic students from throughout the school district swarmed the Centennial High School hallways. Each group of young science researchers seemed just as engrossed to showcase their proposal than the last.

Students wanted to find the effect of microgravity on wide-ranging objects. From strawberry, Rhizopus to hydrogen bubbles and the bone density of an ant, the research topic varied substantially.

One proposal by a team of all-girls middle-schoolers looked at what would happen to a moldy banana when exposed to microgravity.

“We wanted to see if microgravity in space would destroy the mold,” said one of the young presenters “If it does actually destroy the mold, we could give it to the homeless shelters.”

Local resident Deborah Sutton said she was proud of her daughter, Kayleigh Cavagos, who along with her team had set up a booth to show their proposal.

“She loves science and wants to be a vet when she grows up,”  Sutton said. “So, lots of science in her future.”

Among the hundreds of student researchers explaining their proposals to the public, some professional level exhibits were also present at the Space Night event.

Monnig Meteorite Gallery had brought meteorites. Texas NASA Space Grant Consortium came with some Moon rocks. Fort Worth Museum of Science and History set up an inflatable planetarium.

The National Space Society of North Texas gave presentations on space exploration. However, due to bad weather, the stargazing sessions with telescopes from City Lights Astronomical Society for Students had to be put on hold.

Astrophysicists from Texas Christian University also gave presentations on the science of launching rockets. The TCU team had spectrometers and holographic diffraction grating glasses, which help distinguish gases by the spectrum of light it emits, on display and open for attendees to try on.

“I’m encouraging students to ask questions and learn about space and rocket science,” said Kat Barger, physics and astronomy assistant professor at TCU. “I got a piece of a rocket that was in outer space.”

TCU has previously welcomed Burleson students to conduct Student Spaceflight Experiments Program research at their campus labs. TCU also provides high school students internship opportunities to learn more about science.

Some of the judges on Space Night were also affiliated with TCU.

“We try to make sense of the entire universe, together,” Barger said about being involved in science. “Throw it in the pot and stir, and see what happens.”

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