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El Paso, Texas
A group of students examine a sample in a block of Lucite

An El Paso Community College student shows Transmountain Early College High School students Lucite blocks containing replicas of the small test tubes used in the flight mini-laboratory. Image Credit: SSEP

Experiment: The Effect of Microgravity on Biofilm Formation by E. coli on Polystyrene Particles

The impact of the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program on the El Paso community was enthusiastically expressed by Gertrud Konings-Dudin, El Paso Community College Faculty SSEP Participant: "Since the landing of the Eagle on the moon in 1969, I was hooked on space exploration. I always show photos from Hubble in my classes and give students the link to the website. With a few small research projects, I try to guide our students into this dream of exploring a vast universe."

The dream of becoming a part of exploring the universe in a NASA space shuttle was hard to conceive for students and faculty at El Paso Community College and the Transmountain Early College High School. The SSEP project acted as a catalyst that put a lot of wheels in motion to make this dream possible.

Our community rose to the challenge, and within a short time all the components fell into place. Teams of high school and Two students prepare an E. coli sample for analysis

Biofilm formation of E. coli samples was analyzed using a scanning electron microscope. Image Credit: SSEP

college students formed. Faculty from both schools worked tirelessly to guide students in the development of research proposals. Administrators facilitated the acquisition of funding from the EPCC Foundation and the Texas Space Grant Consortium. And scientists accepted the task of reviewing student proposals.

What seemed a monumental task became a reality for our border community. As students developed their proposal and conducted preliminary experiments, they experienced the investigative nature of science while enhancing their mathematical, critical thinking, communication and organizational skills. Allowing students to see their experiment fly on the space shuttle validates the importance of learning science.

Maria Alvarez: El Paso Community College
David Hitt: NASA Educational Technology Services