Lodi Unified students partner with International Space Station

Lodi students working with International Space Station (December 1, 2017)

It's a science project that's out of this world.

Hundreds of Lodi Unified School District students are working with the International Space Station. They're studying how microgravity impacts the growth of plants.

When astronaut Scott Kelly returned from a year aboard the International Space Station in March of 2016, they compared him to his twin brother, to see how low gravity - also known as microgravity - affects the human body.

RELATED: After a year in space, Scott Kelly returns 2 inches taller

That's the same idea behind an experiment called ExoLab, which last month sent the seed of a plant called arabidopsis thaliana up to the International Space Station to grow in microgravity.

Students at Lodi USD's Christa McAuliffe Middle School are growing that exact same plant in similar conditions, with the addition - of course - of Earth's gravity.

"I really feel the ExoLab is getting the kids excited," science teacher Samantha McCoy told ABC10 in her classroom. "They do want to look at it, and we look at it, like, everyday."

"It's very interesting how we can actually compare something that's going on in space to Earth," added McCoy's student, seventh grader Casmir Gebai.

ExoLab comes from a Berkeley-based company called Magnitude.io.

CEO Ted Tagami was at Lodi USD's Creekside Elementary Friday, teaching kids about the project.

"Our challenge really was to get access to extraordinary experiences for students that normally wouldn't have that opportunity," he told ABC10. "So what can we do to impart excitement, curiosity and encourage these young people that there is a future beyond what they might think of as their future? I think there are some very ambitious young people, and we want to keep that curiosity alive."

That's why ExoLab is in elementary, middle schools, and high school classrooms alike. Lodi USD has 15 teachers using the project, teaching a total of some 300 students. And Tagami said ExoLab is in a total of seven states, plus some other countries. Students in Stockton and Manteca are also working with Magnitude.io.

The hands-on lesson has students and teachers excited.

"I think because we have the nametag of NASA associated with it, it makes it a little bit more real, in terms of science," said Jenn Buck, Tokay High School science teacher. "They're actually a little more engaged in terms of doing the background research to come up with a genuine hypothesis."

"We never really thought about this before," said Buck's student, 10th grader Iram Ali.

"I didn't really care much about space or plants, but I feel like this experiment really increased my want to learn about these topics," said 10th grader Fernando Ochoa.

"It's very cool and interesting how we can see how the plants are growing in space and on Earth," added Kadence Gruno, a seventh grader.

Rebecca Pisano is a sixth-grade teacher at Creekside and discussed the device.

"We actually have this little device that we connect to our computer that tells us when the space station is coming around, and so each time that that happens, they're like, 'Yes! There's our plant! There's our experiment,'" she told ABC10.

The experiment is showing students the sky is not necessary the limit.

That's not all Lodi USD is doing with Magnitude.io. The two plan on having students build and launch a full-sized satellite into orbit in 2020!

© 2017 KXTV-TV


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