By: Sabrina Sharifzada
From the beginning of the year we have started this SSEP project which stands for Student Spaceflight Experiment Program. This is a program that lets students to look for a problem and to experiment it in space.This has been a cool experience to experiment with real science which I have never really done before this experiment. This really gives a sense of what being a scientist is like.
The Main Question:
What physical, chemical, or biological system would I like to explore with gravity seemingly turned off for a period of time, as a means of assessing the role of gravity in that system?
Throughout this program we did a whole lesson learning about microgravity which really is when there is no gravity in an orbiting spaceship. We also got the opportunity to go to Heritage Woods Secondary to learn more about this program. I unfortunately didn’t go but Angie, one of our group member did go.
One of the first things that we did as a class was brainstorming things that we would want to experiment in space, no matter how big or small they were. It was weird but it was the easiest part out of all this.
After we got in groups, we had to think of POSSBLE experiments that we would use for our actual project but we really had no idea. Somethings that we had as ideas were:
Plant growth (can we grow plants in microgravity?)
would food rot at the same rate as on earth?
Does human hair grow at the same rate on a human in space as on earth?
Experimenting on insects (general idea)
What type of cheese would mold faster?
Each day we were getting closer to needing to know our experiment that we would be finally doing. However we just couldn’t come up with a good experiment. We also were limited in materials because it had to fit in a 10ml FME tube. There were also a list of material where we were not allowed to used or our proposal would not be accepted. One day I just randomly came up with the idea of experimenting with hand sanitizer and rubbing alcohol. However I had no idea how I would measure and do anything because I had no experience. I told my sister about this SSEP project and she told me that when she was back in high school they did experiments with bacteria and how they did it. That conversation gave me the hope that the bacteria experiment might be the one we will be doing. I told my group that we will use sanitizer and alcohol to see if it will kill any bacteria and they liked the idea so we went with that idea.
After a few days we started experimenting with bacteria to see if it actually works. In this experiment we were aiming to know if bacteria was going to be killed by the hand sanitizer and rubbing alcohol so that we could proceed with this idea for our SSEP project.
We did three tests:
1. sanitizer alone
2. rubbing alcohol alone
3. mix of both
And we found out that the mix of both killed the most bacteria. So this experiment did work which means we can use it for the SSEP experiment.
There also was a seven section proposal that had to be done by us, which in my opinion I think was the hardest part of all. The review team were being very specific and serious. We did manage to get it done but it really needed critical thinking and a lot of work. We worked very hard on this and I tried my best. We did go through difficulties in making this the best it could be, but in the end we were happy that this was done and handed in with all our effort. The proposals from our class went to the SD43 review team to be looked and reviewed for the top 30.
What really helped us was the assignment where we had to go online and examine a groups experiment from previous years that won. That assignment helped us give ideas and gave us confidence that we can do this. We also got to learn about the SSEP opportunity during a Pro d day where most people went to learn more.
Overall I learned many things throughout this project. I learned how to write a proposal and collaboration was really key in the proposal. We learned from our mistakes and we did have difficulties but we problem solved our way out of things by working together. I really liked the idea of sending an experiment to space. I disliked the amount of materials that were restricted so we didn’t have a lot of choice and it also had to fit the 10 ml FME tube. I also disliked the part where we had to write the proposal. Our group could have tried harder with writing the proposal and contributing in this project. This challenge did need a lot of critical thinking, being serious and patience, so that’s how I overcame this project. in the end I was really happy that this was over and I knew that there were more competitive groups but I did try my absolute best in this WHOLE project and especially the proposal.