Bullard High School students to send experiment to International Space Station

Published on Friday, 8 January 2016 13:33 - Written by CORY MCCOY, comccoy@tylerpaper.com

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Four Bullard High School students soon will see their work rocketing into space, after their science experiment recently won national recognition.

The winning Bullard High School team is one of only three in the state and 21 across the nation selected to participate in the program that will send the winning student science experiments into space to be tested by astronauts on the International Space Station. The Student Spaceflight Experiments Program encourages students to think outside the box to help NASA and the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education come up with innovative solutions to problems astronauts or future space travelers may encounter.

Bullard High School submitted three projects for consideration. The winning project -- submitted by freshmen Emma Rhyne, Emmalie Ells, Raelee Walker and Valerie Vierkant -- is an experiment intended to determine how potato blight behaves off planet.

“We came up with this one, because it seemed to meet the most actual needs in space, and it was doable,” Ms. Rhyne said. 

The other two projects by Bullard students examined bacterial growth and kidney stone treatment, respectively.


“I’m so proud of them. The whole project was difficult,” biology teacher Alaina Cannon said during a press conference Friday to announce the winning team. “Seeing them able to grasp so many difficult concepts really motivated me as a teacher.”

Over the last year, the three teams worked with professors on campus of the University of Texas Tyler to develop and refine their experiments. This summer, the girls will be back on campus to run the control experiment, while the astronauts replicate their research from space.

 “We were super excited when we found out we got to go to (the University of Texas)," Ms. Rhyne said. 

The girls said they are proud of their work.

“Coming in as four freshman girls, you’re the bottom of the high school group,” Ms. Ellis said. “So it’s really nice being able to show what you can do.”

Superintendent Todd Schneider said their accomplishments were especially impressive considering he asked his staff to take on the project mid-year, after teaching plans already were set in stone and in progress.

Schneider said the teachers took to the idea enthusiastically and went above and beyond to guide their students to success.

“The biggest challenge was learning how to work within the mindset of the kids for the research,” Mrs. Cannon said. “It’s different than if you’ve been to college, you know how to research or have read scientific journals and you know all of the details and the questions you have to ask.”

Mrs. Cannon said she spent many long hours inside and out of the classroom working with her group, guiding them to ask the right questions, while never interfering in their research.

“Now that they’ve got their feet wet and understand the research process, they’re wanting to give it another shot (next year),” Mrs. Cannon said. “Even if we don’t do it through the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program), I’m hoping we can develop something as a district.”




The Student Spaceflight Experiments Program is part of the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education and the Arthur C. Clarke Institute for Space Education that allows students the opportunity to compete to have their experiments sent to the International Space Station.

The program has five categories to allow students as young as fifth grade to participate as well as colleges and community STEM education programs.

For more information, visit ssep.ncesse.org.