05.05.2021

DreamUp Learners Prepare for Experiment Launch to International Space Station

DreamUp Grace and James

Michael Niehoff
Education Content Coordinator, iLEAD Schools

DreamUp To Space is an exciting multiphase project that pushes the boundaries of how kids look at Earth and our universe by empowering them to design experiments to be launched to the International Space Station.

With the leadership of Director of STEAM Initiatives Kathleen Fredette, Maker Learning Network and iLEAD California schools ran the project virtually this past year. Phase one resulted in two learner-authored experiments being selected by a panel of aerospace experts. Phase two is defined by two launch teams, comprised of learners collaborating in experiment optimization and community outreach in preparation for the experiment launch scheduled for June 3, 2021.

We recently spoke to two learners on launch teams: Grace Stumpf and James Walker, who both attend iLEAD Exploration. The two told us about their experience with DreamUp so far.

What is a launch team and its purpose?

Grace: The purpose of DreamUp is to get kids excited about space exploration and inspire the next generation. This year’s launch teams are groups of students, ranging from middle to high school, working together to send an experiment to the ISS. The launch team I’m on is testing the effects of microgravity on the germination of Vigna radiata, or mung beans.

James: The “why” behind our launch team is to find reliable alternatives for food sources for long-term space travel. Currently, food aboard the ISS is blasted into space on expensive rockets. It would be cheaper and more efficient to grow/create food in space and required for future space colonization. My team is working towards sending up Daucus carota (carrot) seeds, which we obtained from Burpee Seeds, up to the ISS for experimentation of carrot growth in microgravity versus on Earth. Indeed, Burpee made a generous donation to our project!

What inspired you to apply to be part of a launch team?

Grace: I wanted to step outside my comfort zone. Space has always interested me, and I was willing to put in the hard work to make it to launch. I didn’t want to go through my life and not try anything new. I also thought that being on this team might appeal to future college admissions teams. When I applied, to be completely honest, I didn’t think I was going to make the team. But I am so glad I did!

James: Ever since I was a toddler, I’ve dreamed of being an astronaut. I always ask myself, “What is the best line of action?” for the future. So when I heard about this team, I knew this would bring great opportunities for me later in life. Not very many people have the opportunity to send something to the ISS. I think this will enhance my portfolio when applying to schools or jobs.

What will it mean to you when your project finally launches this summer?

Grace: I’m really looking forward to watching the launch on YouTube or in person, depending on how things work out. Once that happens, it will mean we’ve almost finished with our DreamUp project and something I worked on has gone to space!

James: I’ve never seen a rocket launch in person, so I’m definitely looking forward to that. We have a lot of work to do before that. But the satisfaction of seeing the work pay off could very well be the best prize anyone could ask for.

What has been the most challenging part of the project so far?

Grace: The most challenging part has probably been researching all the information on Vigna radiata for our experiment.

James: The hardest thing for me would definitely be having to shift my schedule around for meetings.

What has been the most rewarding aspect of this project so far?

Grace: The most rewarding thing so far has been writing as a guest blogger for the iLEAD Student Aerospace Projects blog. It is my dream to be a published author and write my own book. The blog was an amazing experience and gave me a wonderful opportunity to practice my writing. I would also like to thank Mrs. Fredette for providing me such a fantastic opportunity.

James: To me, the most rewarding thing so far would be the time I spend with my team over Zoom. They are amazing humans and extremely smart for their age. It is really nice to be around people who are as interested in space as I am.

What are the disadvantages and advantages of doing this work virtually?

Grace: One of the advantages is that we are able to have team members all over the country. Most of us are based in California, but we have team numbers as far away as Colorado. A disadvantage is that no matter how hard you try, you can never replace being able to see someone in person.

James: My favorite part of doing this virtually is that I don’t have to leave home. However, it is getting quite lonesome, and being able to interact with people in person is a lot easier than virtually. Experimentation on germination of carrots would also be a lot easier if we were able to work together in person.

What have you learned while being part of DreamUp, and what would you tell others who are considering getting involved?

Grace: I learned about the International Space Station, germination, microgravity and better time management. My message for others who might consider getting involved in DreamUp is this: If you’re interested in space and willing to put the work in, go for it!

James: It is a general fact that hard work pays off, but DreamUp really put that into perspective for me. If I met someone who was considering joining DreamUp, I would heavily encourage it if they were willing to do lots of work and have great amounts of fun.

Click here to learn more and to register for the next mission!

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