By Karolyne Carloss
Culberson County-Allamoore ISD has partnered with Blue Origin on an exciting new education initiative to inspire the next generation of space explorers. This program, CCAISD in Space, will give 6th-8th grade students the opportunity to design, prototype, and fly a student-led experiment with the support of Blue Origin engineers and technicians. Over the course of the 2019-2020 school year, students will engage in hands-on science and engineering with the guidance of their science teachers, Yolanda Ortega and Luz Barrandey, and Blue Origin volunteers. This program is a project-based learning opportunity made possible by the Project Lead the Way (PLTW) STEM curriculum at CCAISD.
CCAISD Trustee Eduardo Seyffert says about the opportunity, “This type of hands-on learning is exactly what PLTW was meant to enable, and now, our students can capitalize on an incredibly unique opportunity to design and launch a science experiment to the edge of space. I want to thank CCAISD faculty and staff for working hard to implement PLTW courses for the students. We’ve already started to reap the benefits after one full school year, demonstrated in part by the 13 percentage point increase in our state-level evaluation.”
In September, Blue Origin came to the school to lead students in a brainstorming exercise to stretch their imaginations about the many different types of experiments they could send to space. During the brainstorming exercise, Blue Origin engineers and technicians introduced important parameters for the experiment. The experiment would need to be completely autonomous, small enough to fit in a 10cm x 10cm x 20cm container, weigh less than 0.5 kg, and execute successfully in only three minutes of zero gravity. Some early student ideas included releasing a wind-up toy; sampling foods before and after flight; flying eggs at different incubation terms; and observing the effects of zero gravity on a compass, elephant toothpaste, orbeez, and plant seeds.
In an upcoming Initial Payload Design Review, each middle school class will pitch their best idea to a panel of experts – teachers, administrators, high school students, and Blue Origin staff – and the committee will vote on one experiment to represent CCAISD and Van Horn on a future rocket launch. Students will work with Blue Origin volunteers throughout the school year to bring the selected experiment to life and prepare it for its maiden voyage to space.
Through this program, students will have an opportunity to engage in hands-on, collaborative problem-solving, develop hardware and software for space, strengthen their engineering skills, and develop mentorship relationships with real-life aerospace engineers and technicians.
Superintendent, Ken Baugh, reflected, “For this next generation of explorers, the sky is far from the limit.”