Middle School Students Design and 3D Print Container to Hold EIS Academy Experiments During Suborbital Rocket Launch

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Classroom experiments are usually pretty interesting, and even fun…unless you’re dissecting a rat in biology class, of course (that was not a fun day for me, or the rat). A few months ago, Enterprise in Space (EIS), an international non-profit program of the National Space Society (NSS), launched the Print the Future competition, where university teams can compete to have their original designs 3D printed in a NewSpace experiment aboard the International Space Station; the three finalist teams were recently announced. In a further attempt to demonstrate its NewSpace education program, EIS, together with reusable rocket company EXOS Aerospace Systems & Technologies, will be sending several educational experiments up into space on a suborbital flight with reusable rocket technology.

The experiments will be pulling from several different areas, and levels, of the educational spectrum, from postgraduate research all the way down to middle school education. Through its open EIS Academy, EIS connected with teacher Andrew Goodwin, and his middle school Building Creative Confidence class, at the Grand Center Arts Academy in St. Louis, Missouri. The college prep school not only challenges its students academically, it also emphasizes the importance of visual and performing arts…a perfect place for STEAM curriculum.

Goodwin worked with the online EIS Academy to design a few entry-level experiments for his students that introduce them to the benefits of STEAM education. The experiments sound pretty neat, and informative: one centers around determining what the effects of the environment in space could do to maple tree seeds that will be grown on Earth once they return from space, and another will use the heat of outer space to melt crayons into artwork.

SARGE Launch Vehicle [Image: EXOS]

Goodwin’s class needed to find some way to get the various experiments up to space. The 24 students knew that their work would be traveling aboard the SARGE launch vehicle that belongs to space delivery agent EXOS, so it would have to meet some pretty specific criteria. So they turned to 3D printing, and used the school’s Ultimaker 3D printer to rapidly produce a special cube housing container.

Students from Andrew Goodin’s Building Creative Confidence class at Grand Center Arts
Academy, along with the 3D-printed capsule and their experiments.

Once the container was built, the class wanted to make sure that it would survive SARGE’s trip into suborbital space, so they put it through a successful drop test. The students recognized what was at stake, and worked at a breakneck pace, taking less than two months, from initial concept to payload delivery, to build the container. It’s a good thing, too, as their experiments will be launched later this month.

EXOS Co-founder and Chief Operating Officer John Quinn explained, “Reusable rocket technology makes it possible to cut the launch waiting period for a payload dramatically, while also reducing costs. This lowers the barriers for the types of NewSpace education experiments made possible by EIS.”

In addition to Goodwin’s class experiments, the Center for Applied Space Technology (CAST) worked with EIS’ higher education-focused Enterprise Centers for Excellence program to create a postgraduate research experiment into space medicine, and designed a biological microgravity experiment. CAST believes the experiment can be useful during long-duration space flight, and may even have terrestrial applications.

Experiments designed by Andrew Goodin’s Building Creative Confidence class, with the 3D printed capsule in which they will be stored.
Experiments include: popcorn that will pop in the heat of space, and sticky notes, to determine if the space environment reduces their adhesion.

The experiment results will be published online in the Enterprise Center for Excellence for Regenerative Medicine for Long Duration Space Flight, and university and postgraduate EIS Academy students will have access to the experiment materials, and the results, in order to advance their own education. Both the CAST experiment and Goodwin’s class experiments, in their 3D printed container, will be launched as payloads into space on EXOS’ suborbital rocket launch, which is currently slated to take place at the end of this month at the Spaceport America in New Mexico.

Once the launch is successfully completed, EXOS will present about the results at this month’s International Space Development Conference in St. Louis. Upon its return, EXOS will also be hand-delivering the space-flown experiment package to the participating students, and will work with EIS in hopes of developing a long-term relationship to create an educational K-12 curriculum for the EIS Academy.

Discuss in the EIS forum at 3DPB.com.

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