Spaceflight Experiment Conference DC

Thursday July 3

Students enjoyed a full day of spaceflight experiment presentations from across the country!  Cithlali's favorite was an experiment that has already returned from the ISS testing the release of Aleve in microgravity.  Jose's was the a
research team that found that microgravity could actually help cure ALS, a disease that their high school teacher had.  Kevin's favorite was a proposal to study the regeneration of planaria worms on the ISS to study how organism's heal.

Later that afternoon, our team presented their ideas on a poster to Smithsonian visitors.  Visitors exclaimed, "Amazing!" and "Good luck in space!"  Kevin says, "Presenting in from of a lot of people was fun and amazing, talking to people from around the world about our experiment.  We taught people how to persevere, not quitting even though we're still working on our experiment
through the summer time! Being a scientist for 2 days felt amazing because it's 
a dream of mine.  This was a once in a life time opportunity!"
From there, we took off for a visit to the American Indian museum and dodged a summer thunderst
orm to squeeze into the Natural History Museum.  We loved  it so much that we spent nearly an hour in the Human Evolution exhibit alone and have vowed to return tomorrow.  Jose was inspired by the dedication of the Smithsonian artist who took

2.5 years to create t
people!  "You have to be patient to transform something from impossible to possible!"  he busts of the prehistoric 

Finally, we persevered through the rain to walk to the White House.  Cithlali says that ,"Visiting the White House was amazing, just knowing that Obama was inside.  My dream is to become president and learn what it feels like to be inside of the White House."  Photo credit, Jose M "White House Sniper."

In spite of all of the walking we'd already done, we decided to push 
ourselvesfor one last night walk - to the Lincoln Memorial!  We visited the WWII memorial and saw amazing views of the Washington Monument along the way.  Photo of Lincoln, Jose M.

Wednesday July 2

Students set their alarms for the crack of dawn this morning (well before their
teacher) to take care of pre-conference business: ironing their dress clothes, practicing their presentations, and testing out the hotel coffee machines.  

We began the day with a warm welcome in the Milestones of Flight Gallery surrounded by Charles Lindbergh's Spirit of Saint Louis and Apollo 11.  

From there, we had the day to watch other groups' presentations - ranging from proposals to be sent in October with UPA's to experiments that have already returned from the ISS!  Our team had a chance to ask other presenters questions and get ideas on how to perfect their presentation.  

Students were inspired by our keynote speaker, NASA Astronaut Don Thomas,
who shared his struggles to achieve his dream of spaceflight.  He was rejected by NASA 3 times before finally being accepted into astronaut training!  His
perseverance and dedication to personal growth were inspiring.
 Kevin learned that,  "When you think that doors are closing, just open them back up again.  All of the hard work that you did will pay off one day!

After one more practice session at lunch - it was show time!  Our team rocked it!  They were confident and articulate, representing UPA with pride.  After the presentation, they fielded questions from the audience like, "How did you select this type of red worm for your experiment?" and "How did you chose eggshells as the best to compost with?"  Cithlali felt confident with her presentation - she had been so nervous and then spent extra time preparing.  She says, "I was capable of learning new things about what I want to do when I grow up."

Finally, we got a chance to visit with tomorrow's presenters as they displayed their posters in another gallery.  Our team will share their poster tomorrow afternoon with SSEP student researchers and museum visitors.  Jose says, "I saw that everyone has their own ideas and if we can communicate more - with people from all around the country in New York, North Carolina - together we can come up with even better ideas and make them almost perfect!  The more communities that come together the stronger we will be."
Dr. Jeff Goldstein of SSEP welcomed us to the IMAX Hidden Universe with background on his own research and our place in the universe.  Jose was inspired by his quote "to learn more about your home, you need to leave home."  He says that "This sends a really strong message that we humans are like little
microbes on a big planet and what we do might seem huge to us and affect our future in a huge way.
 If everyone gave their best to set a goal, humans could discover so many things!"  Photo of Einstein figurine, Jose M.

Tuesday, July 1: UPA scientists have arrived!

Our UPA scientist team took off this morning for Washington, DC filled with excitement and anticipation for their presentation at the Student Spaceflight Experiment Conference at the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum.  

After a quick break to watch the World Cup match, we headed to Z Burger for a dinner favorite of President Clinton.  

Next stop, practicing for our microgravity experiment presentations!  Students are prepared to explain their idea - testing how worms compost in space.  We'll see how they actually do after our experiment is flown to the International Space Station in October.  Stay tuned for our results!  

The team says that this is the longest that they've ever been apart from their families. Cithlali reflected, "This trip is teaching me to be responsible - even when our families are 3,000 miles away!"  Kevin says, "On the plane, it felt like I was so dizzy and crazy pressure on my head.  Sometimes when you think everything is going to be perfect, there could be some bumps in the way.  Always be prepared for emergencies!"  And Jose realized, "Sometimes to get something you really want, you have to work hard for it.  Our families worked really hard for what we have.  They say that I can pay them back with my hard work, good grades, and being a role model for my siblings."  

Hard work is certainly the name of the game tonight as our team revises their presentations and prepares to share their idea in front of hundreds of other students, scientists, and community members at the Smithsonian tomorrow.  

With our presentations revised and practiced, we took a brief night walk to the Washington Monument.  What a sight!