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Hartford, Conn.
Two students point at a bulletin board

Nathaniel and Jacob look at the mission patches from the Mission Patch Competition. Image Credit: SSEP

Experiment: Microgravity's Effect on Tomato Growth

"If this is what a scientist really gets to do, I am going to be one when I grow up!" exclaimed Patrick, a fifth-grade student at Annie Fisher STEM Magnet School. The Student Spaceflight Experiments Program has enabled our students to do real-life science giving them confidence that science, technology, engineering and mathematics are fields they can pursue in the future. When asked how he felt about SSEP, third-grade student Jacob replied, "I know I can be a scientist NOW."

The SSEP project at our school was run like a STEM industry, in that our student government became project managers in charge of both the mission patch and the experiment competitions. Project managers from the STEM industry came in and mentored the students in the process by which students in grades K-4 designed and submitted mission patch entries. The student project managers selected the finalists and sent them to our partner industry, Hamilton Sundstrand, where employees selected the winning patch.

In the upper grades, student teams also were mentored by industry leaders in the creation of their experiment proposals. Student project managers sent all proposals to a professional science and engineering team at Hamilton Sundstrand, who then selected three finalists.

This entire experience was powerful for our students because they were doing real-life science, working with leaders in STEM industry and being shown the pathway to STEM careers. Bryce, a third-grade student, said it best when he explained, "As a project manager, I was a leader at STEM."

Sheri Tanner and Rachael Manzer: Annie Fisher STEM Magnet School, Hartford Public Schools
Rebecca Dorfmueller: NASA Educational Technology Services