Handpicked By NASA
Student team finalist in nationwide project to send research to International Space Station
Vandal innovation is headed to the International Space Station (ISS).
A University of Idaho College of Engineering team is one of five groups selected nationwide for NASA’s Student Payload Opportunity With Citizen Science (SPOCS) program to build an experiment that will fly to the ISS and remain undisturbed for 30 days before returning to Earth.
The team includes chemical engineering seniors Adriana Bryant, Hannah Johnson, Travis Lindsay, Roslyn McCormack, Niko Hansen and Kael Stelck. Led by Matt Bernards, NASA Idaho Space Grant Consortium Director and U of I chemical engineering associate professor, they will spend spring semester researching how microgravity impacts the efficacy of polymers known to resist bacteria on Earth.
“The goal of our project is to ultimately further space travel by reducing bacteria growth and disease on the International Space Station. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, our experimentation could be potentially be utilized to prevent sickness here on Earth as well” Adriana Bryant, Senior in Chemical Engineering
“The goal of our project is to ultimately further space travel by reducing bacteria growth and disease on the International Space Station," Bryant said. “In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, our experimentation could be potentially be utilized to prevent sickness here on Earth as well.”
Synthesizing two types of polymers, the team will test the ability of these molecules to resist bacteria on an aluminum alloy that is utilized for many high-contact areas throughout the ISS, such as hand rails and door handles.
As part of the NASA-funded project, teams are expected to involve K-12 students in their research. The team is prepping to build research kits for 240 Russell Elementary School students in Moscow, Idaho.
Lindsay, McCormack and Stelck are refining a non-toxic gel solution containing the bacteria-resistant polymers. They will be delivered to third through fifth grade students for at-home experiments lasting 30 days.
Each student will be asked to “feed” potential bacteria growth using a nutrient broth designed to help bacteria thrive. Monitoring any bacterial changes daily, students will report on which two polymers they think would be the best candidates to send to the ISS.
“These students will be using the scientific method and come up with solutions that are unique and useful,” said Stelck. “They are running the experiment that will be used to decide which of the polymers we will use in our final design. This is important research that they will be able to see is useful. We hope it will inspire them to pursue a future in science and engineering.”
The U of I research team will work in tandem with the elementary student researchers to verify their own results.
Their completed research will be sent to the ISS in 2021. The SPOCS program is designed to celebrate NASA’s 20 years of humans in orbit on the ISS.
Article by Alexiss Turner