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Wakulla Middle School Selected for NASA 2018 Challenge



January 17, 2018


Wakulla Middle School science teachers Melissa Martin and Katrina Roddenberry, along with their advanced science students, entered a successful proposal for NASA’s Microgravity University for Educators (MgUE) 2018 Challenge.

We are one of ten schools nationwide chosen for this.  Their proposal beat many high school proposals across the country,” says WMS Principal Tolar Griffin.

Team Leader Martin and Co-Leader Roddenberry, along with four WMS students, have been selected by NASA to present and test their WMS prototype at Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas during spring break. NASA is paying their travel and lodging expenses. 

The four WMS students have yet to be selected.  Both Martin and Roddenberry teach “Integrated Science”, a rigorous science course for high school credit. 

“We have 99 middle school students enrolled in our ‘Integrated Science’ classes,” says Martin. “They all will be involved in the project as part of the ‘Integrated Science’ curriculum.”

States Roddenberry, “Selection will be based on such things as the age requirement (must be 14 years old by March 19, 2018); academic performance; behavior; and attendance. The primary basis for selection will be an essay contest in which students share why they should be selected, their engineering and coding ideas for the device, and how they plan to share the experience with others.”

According to the 2018 Challenge description, “NASA uses a deployment system to eject payloads such as cube satellites from the International Space Station. In recent years, a deployment system failed to release satellites when commanded, and inadvertently or prematurely released satellites.”

“Work to improve the mechanics and powering of the system has been a focus for NASA and its partners. Microgravity University for Educators (MgUE) invites educators and mainly high school students to be a part of the team to improve the solution.”

NASA is challenging teams to design and build a Satellite Launching Experimental Device (SLED) coded to autonomously “deploy a mock satellite into a moving, targeted zone that mimics a Mars orbital insertion.”

The WMS team will test the SLED in a simulated microgravity and reduced friction environment called the Precision Air Bearing Floor (PABF).

“Some of the ways the Wakulla community can help out are with materials and supplies for building the device. We also need volunteers who have expertise in a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) field to be resources for students, especially in engineering and coding, specifically expertise with Arduino,” Martin notes.

Wakulla High School Robotics teacher Christopher Stearns has already volunteered to help with the project.

“Mr. Griffin also approved us to do an art challenge for WMS students to design a mission patch or shirt to commemorate the event,” adds Martin.

Roddenberry has been involved with NASA for years, bringing real problems to her science classes at Riversink Elementary and Wakulla Middle School. She was a NASA MicroGravity eXperience Team Leader. In addition, she is a member of Space Center Houston's Space Educators Expedition Crew.

Roddenberry also spent six weeks of summer professional development at the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory in Tallahassee.

Martin also has been involved with NASA for years and was a member of the NASA MicroGravity eXperience team.  She also works at the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory during the summer as a co-teacher facilitating their newest program, “SciGirls Coding Camp”. This program seeks to give young girls exploration in computer sciences.

Says Principal Griffin, “I could not be more proud of Mrs. Martin, Mrs. Roddenberry and the students involved.  Their hard work and passion for science education has created a once in a lifetime opportunity for our students.”

Superintendent Bobby Pearce adds, “Congratulations to WMS for earning such an honor. All of our children will benefit from the spotlight brought to science by this real-world application. We have our future scientists sitting right in front of us.”

To find ways to contribute materials or expertise to the WMS 2018 NASA Challenge, contact teachers at melissa.martin@wcsb.us, katrina.roddenberry@wcsb.us, or call WMS at 850-926-7143.