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David Thibodaux STEM Magnet Academy Students Design Experiment for the International Space Station

Students at David Thibodaux STEM Magnet Academy are sending bacteria to the International Space Station to study the way it grows in zero gravity. The school is one of eleven schools worldwide who will have experiments aboard the International Space Station for 30 days next April.

According to the flyer created by faculty sponsors at David Thibodaux STEM Magnet Academy, the objective of the project is “to design an experiment including the setup, electrical circuitry, programming, and NASA specifications that will be launched via a Spacex Rocket to the International Space Station for 30 days.” The project perfectly embodies the spirit of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) initiatives in education. Once the students chose their experiment, they divided themselves into groups responsible for different aspects of the project. The team set out with two research questions:

1.   Do bacteria grow differently in a zero gravity environment than they do in Earths gravity?

2.   Do bacteria respond differently in zero gravity when introduced to an antibacterial agent such as penicillin?

The team is complete with a project manager, biomedical team, an engineering team, an electrical team, and software programmers. Two members of the engineering team, Logan Guillory and Alex Landry, explained the parameters of the experiment. The entire project has to fit into a 3D printed box approximately the size of a stick of butter. An onboard computer and camera will monitor and document the growth of bacteria in zero gravity which will be compared to a control group grown back on Earth during the same 30-day time period. Both sets of bacteria will then be exposed to penicillin.

When asked about the benefits of participating in a project like this, Logan Guillory said that he is proud of the way the students have come together and learned to function as a team and that “we are doing what people in this industry do for a living every day.”  Steele Russell, responsible for programming the camera in the experiment, said that “the project shows me what my career could look like.”  Paul Pryor, the team’s project manager, noted that one of the most rewarding aspects of the project is “being able to make decisions for the team, knowing that you can help the team reach its goal and that the team members trust you to make the right decision.”

The project is one of the many examples of the diverse educational opportunities available to students of the Lafayette Parish School System. This extraordinary group of students and their faculty sponsors will be recognized at this evening’s board meeting.