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Valley high schoolers picked to send science experiment to space

Posted at 6:24 PM, Mar 07, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-08 21:52:43-05

MESA — Six high school students at Arizona State University's Preparatory Academy in Mesa got quite the shock last month.

"We were really surprised," said 10th grader Ryan Robinson.

"Yeah, it was really exciting," said 11th grade Sawyer Ganes.

Those reactions came after finding out they won the NASA TechRise Challenge.

"I definitely do think a lot of work is going to have to go into this," said Ganes.

When NASA's Blue Origin rocket launches into space next year, a small box weighing just over a pound will hold an experiment that was selected among more than 600 applicants. Now provided, along with 54 other schools, $1,500 to build an experiment.

"I wouldn't really say it's intimidating; it's definitely going to be interesting to say the least to actually learn how to code this, figure out all the weight issues we're gonna have," said 9th grader Deaglan Salado.

Inside a small clear box, they'll need to fit a camera, two sponges, lights, a syringe and a motherboard programmed to conduct the experiment automatically. All while meeting NASA's strict weight requirements of just 500 grams.

"We're gonna design it and I'm really excited," said 9th grader Samantha Llagas. "If we didn't have curiosity then we would just stay in one place."

Essentially the experiment will look at how sponges react to water in microgravity. It will automatically detect the launch and is programmed to activate during a three-mintue window in the trajectory. A syringe will then inject water into two sponges, one of which will have waterproof spray applied to it.

"You'll be able to see whether the sponges soaked up the water or repelled it, especially the hydrophobic one," said Ganes.

Over the next few months, they'll get a crash course in computer and electrical engineering. But these young minds are up for the challenge, hoping the out-of-this-world plan goes off without a hitch when it blasts off next year.