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Capitol Hill Cluster School, District of Columbia Public Schools, Washington, D.C.
Students work with experiments at a table in a science laboratory

Eighth-graders at Stuart Hobson Middle School work on their microgravity experiments in teacher Anthonette Pena's science laboratory. Image Credit: SSEP

Experiment: Does Hay Bacillus Break Down Human Waste (Represented by Brown Egg) in Microgravity as Well as in Earth Gravity?

This past fall, students of the Capitol Hill Cluster School had an out-of-this-world chance to experiment with the effects of microgravity with the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program, or SSEP. Cluster students ran with the opportunity to explore space science topics and design a real microgravity experiment destined for low Earth orbit, or participate in the related mission patch art and design competition. Students learned important science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, skills while brainstorming various microgravity experiments such as hatching fish eggs, cleaning teeth, and chemically consuming waste.

Over one thousand Cluster School students participated in the combination of microgravity research and mission patch competitions. The competitions gripped the Cluster. "This is a great opportunity for us," said Jamila, an eighth-grade student and one of the finalists. "It is so exciting!"

The experiment by Kyra, Daiana and JaKayla, a team of eighth-graders, proposed to test the breakdown of waste in a microgravity environment. Specifically, the girls wanted to test hay bacillus' ability to break down human waste to decrease the amount of space initially used to store water on long space missions. The testing would also show if hay bacillus could be used as an antibiotic in microgravity. The girls were elated that their experiment was chosen to fly to the International Space Station.

The SSEP opened students' eyes to just how interesting STEM can be. Cluster students are watching with bated breath for the results of the chosen experiment and will look for further opportunities like this one to test their scientific muscles.

The Capitol Hill Cluster School is grateful to the District of Columbia NASA Space Grant Consortium for making this opportunity possible for so many of our students.

To read about the other student experiments for Mission 1 to the International Space Station, visit http://www.nasa.gov/audience/foreducators/station-here-we-come.html.

Richard Munz and Anthonette Pena/Stuart Hobson Middle School