Lackey Experiment to Soar Into Space

LA PLATA, Md. (June 3, 2011)—A scientific experiment created by Henry E. Lackey High School students is ready to blast off July 8 on the last flight of the Space Shuttle Atlantis (STS-135).

Also flying on the Atlantis will be a mission patch designed by Nathan Freeman, a junior at La Plata High School.

Lackey’s team will conduct identical experiments – one on the shuttle and one at school – that compare the structural differences between Arabidopsis thaliana, a small flowering plant, germinated on earth and in space, and to isolate the effects of microgravity on germination. The experiment, “Physiological effects of microgravity on germination and growth of Arabidopsis thaliana,” is one of 11 nationwide that will be conducted by astronauts during the final Atlantis flight.

Lackey’s experiment will fly aboard NASA's STS-135 mission, which will dock with the International Space Station. The school system's participation in this program aligns with science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) curriculum, and encourages students to learn more about science and mathematics opportunities. The experiment is part of a national STEM program called the Student Spaceflight Experiment Program (SSEP).

Calling the space shuttle experiments a “way cool program,” Jeff Goldstein, center director of the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education (NCESSE), said the placement of the Lackey experiment on the flight is a “stunningly historic opportunity” for students and Charles County Public Schools.

Lackey’s team, composed of Courtney Buckman, Charles Campbell, Kristin Conyers, Devon Johnson, Christine Kim, Chinyere McKoy-Nwachukwu, Sam Paras, Sydney Scott, Paul Warren, and Deborah Cline, is under the direction of teachers Lara North and Romulo Gabriele. Students started on the proposal in March and learned on June 1 during a presentation and awards ceremony at Maurice J. McDonough High School that their experiment was the first-place winner among the 18 Charles County Public Schools team submissions. Other finalists were teams from Piccowaxen Middle School and Milton M. Somers Middle School.

In March, teachers and students in grades 5-12 were asked to develop experiment proposals covering a diverse range of fields including seed germination, crystal growth, micro-aquatic life and physiology. The Maryland Space Grant Consortium is funding the Charles County Public Schools’ participation and covering the costs of acquiring experiment space aboard the shuttle. A local panel of educators, scientists and engineers, reviewed all student proposals. Experiments from Lackey, Piccowaxen and Somers were selected for final review by NCESSE, which made the selection on which experiment would fly.

In a second part of the program, 46 students in grades K-12 designed mission patches to compete for a spot on Space Shuttle Atlantis (STS-135). The patch design competition was open to students in kindergarten through grade 12, displayed in the lobby of the Jesse L. Starkey Administration Building and selected by open public voting. First patch design runner up is Troy Young and second runner up is Bradleigh Chance, both seniors at La Plata.

The Student Space Flight Experiments Program (SSEP) is undertaken by the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education, a project of the 501(c) (3) Tides Center, in partnership with NanoRacks, LLC. This on-orbit educational research opportunity is enabled through NanoRacks LLC, which is working in partnership with NASA under a Space Act Agreement as part of the utilization of the International Space Station as a National Laboratory.

For more information on the SSEP, visit

Source: Charles County Public Schools

Featured Sponsor

The Calvert County Times
Free color newspaper on local newsstands and online every Thursday.

Reader Comments

Featured Sponsor

Burch Oil Company
Serving the changing needs of Southern Maryland since 1928.

Need Legal Representation?

Three So. Maryland locations to serve you. Personal Injury, Criminal Defense, DUI Defense.

Follow SoMd HL News