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Local students will get to rub shoulders with Royal Couple

Glen Hallick, The Stonewall Argus & Teulon Times

Woodlands School science and technology teacher Maria Nikkel with Brant-Argyle School students Ryan Petricig, Avery Good and Ethan Enns get a look at their experiment after it returned from the ISS. They and others involved in the Student Spaceflight Experiment Program will be meeting the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall on May 21.

Woodlands School science and technology teacher Maria Nikkel with Brant-Argyle School students Ryan Petricig, Avery Good and Ethan Enns get a look at their experiment after it returned from the ISS. They and others involved in the Student Spaceflight Experiment Program will be meeting the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall on May 21.

Come May 21, students from Interake School Division will received a very special honour. They will be meeting the Prince of Wales and the Duchess Cornwall when the royal couple visits Red River College’s Stevenson Hanger.

Getting to rub shoulders with Prince Charles and his wife Camilla, will be those students involved in the science experiment that travelled to the International Space Station (ISS) earlier this year. This includes Ryan Petricig, Avery Good, Ethan Enns and project leader, Woodlands School science teacher, Maria Nickel.

In December 2012, students from Brant-Argyle School became the first Canadian school to be selected to send an experiment to the ISS in the Student Spaceflight Experiment Program. Their project was to find out whether the antioxidants, such as green tea, helped to protect against the effects of radiation or not. After a series of delays, the experiment finally blasted off Jan. 9. A couple of months later it was returned.

Nickel explained who will be meeting the royal couple.

“The first, second and third place winners, Woodlands Space Knights Space Club reps & winning teachers including Leslie Fuerst, Brant-Argyle principal Laura Perrella, CancerCare Manitoba researchers Dr. Eileen Mckenzie-Matwiy, Dr. Elizabeth Hensen, Dr. Dan Gietz and space systems engineer Phil Ferguson plus myself will be greeting the couple at AAIMS day at the Stevenson Campus Red River College on May 21,” Nickel said.

She said they will be given some time to discuss the experiment with the royal couple.

“In the meantime all the kids are practicing what they are going to say and who is going to say what, as well as researching information about the royal couple so they can ask questions and carry a conversation with them. They are all really taking this visit seriously and want to do well, to showcase their respective schools, the division and their team,” Nickel explained.

She pointed out there have been required security checks and soon everyone will be receive a briefing on the correct protocol. And, the science teacher said it will be an exciting time.

“From my perspective this is a huge honour. A bucket list moment and accomplishment for all the long hours of dedicated work that has been put into the Student Spaceflight Experiment Program, to make it a success and positive experience and a testament to the prestige of the program to be able to showcase that to the royals is remarkable,” Nickel said. “The kids have said ‘whoa, no way, that is so amayzing, I’m so excited I can’t wait to show our experiment idea to them, goosebumps, it’s amazing, really cool, and once in a lifetime chance you don’t get everyday,’ along with screams of delight”

As for the experiment, the student got to see it march 17 in Winnipeg before to was transported to CancerCare Manitoba. The results, Nickel noted, are not yet completed.

“That is an ongoing process right now. We have some pictures of the yeast, but not all that we need to complete the analysis. There has been some contamination of the sample, so antibiotics have to be used to get rid of the bacteria before we can proceed with further and final analysis. The students are working with CancerCare researchers closely to analyze the results they can obtain so far and draw some conclusions and develop further questions about their results. Once the bacteria is gone there can be final analysis and drawn conclusions. The students are not there with that just yet, it will be several weeks before that can happen. The students will continue to work hard on this project until it is completed. They are extremely curious and excited to see if their idea worked and was successful in having the antioxidant green tea protect the yeast cells from DNA damage. Ultimately this is what they want to know, did it work or not? They are really hoping it did,” she explained.


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