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Interlake students reach for the stars


Interlake School Division students are about to blast off into outer space. Or at least their new science project will.

Over 450 kids in Grades 5 and 6 from schools such as Woodlands, Balmoral and Stonewall will participate in sending a science experiment to the International Space Station next spring, where an astronaut will activate the experiment and send the experiment back to students on Earth. There are eight schools in all taking part.

The Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP), launched June 2010 by the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education (NCESSE), is a remarkable Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education initiative that gives typically 300 to 1,000 students across a community the ability to design and propose real experiments to fly in low Earth orbit. SSEP is about a commitment to student ownership in exploration, to science as a journey, and to the joys of learning.

"It’s pretty amazing," says Woodlands Elementary School teacher Maria Nickel. "This is a first for Canada, and a first for a Canadian school division."

With the help of $20,000 in grants from Manitoba companies like Acsion and the provincial government, Nickel entered the competition, which will select one experiment from each of 16 communities — 15 in the U.S., the 16th being the Interlake. Eventually, one experiment will be chosen from all the ideas in the Interlake School Division, and 16 experiments will be launched to the space station in the spring of 2013.

Woodlands Elementary School officially kicked off the campaign last Monday morning.

“Having the opportunity to support the SSEP program and a number of Manitoba communities has been very rewarding for Acsion” said Chris Saunders, president of the Pinawa-based Acsion Industries, which is taking part in the initiative. “We are looking forward to seeing the great ideas that will come from the students and following the space flight next spring with a made-in-Manitoba experiment on board”.

The Student Space Flight Experiments Program in Manitoba is undertaken by the Arthur C. Clarke Institute for Space Education ( in partnership with Nanoracks, LLC.

This on-orbit educational research opportunity is enabled through NanoRacks, LLC, which is working in partnership with NASA under a Space Act Agreement as part of the utilization of the International Space Station as a National Laboratory.

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