Bacteria experiment from a city school to head into space

Dec 18, 2018

A Buffalo Public School will once again see a student science project head into orbit next year. Western New York STEM Hub announced the winner of its Space Contest. WBFO’s senior reporter Eileen Buckley met with winning student-research team from The International Preparatory School. 

International Prep teacher Andrew Franz with students Joy Elaine Everett, Alex Everett, Alejandro Arrigo & Sole Witt.
Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley

Four International Prep students gathered after school in a classroom to discuss their planned experiment. They are the winners of the 2019 Take Flight Space Experiments Program guided through WNY STEM Hub.

“I’m in shock still,” stated Joy Elaine Everett, 7th grader at International Prep.  “I kind of knew that we would win, but also I felt like everybody else worked really hard, noted Alex Everett, 8th grader at the school.

The Everett’s are sisters. 9th graders Sole Witt and Alejandro Arrigo also make up this team. The city students were among the more than 500-local students in grades 5-12. They all designed and proposed microgravity experiments to fly in low earth orbit in a weightless environment.

Four students working on research project after school.
Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley

Their winning project is about bacteria. It’s called The Effect of Microgravity on Bacillus subtilis on Subsequent Terrestrial Behavior -- WBFO asked what that is?

“Bacillus subtilis is un-harmful. It’s in your digestive track. It’s found in yogurt, fermented soybeans, but its cousin bacillus anthrax is used to make anthrax, which is a poison. So, we’re going to how the bacteria reacts to the environment into space,” explained Everett.

“I feel like I’m a big part of the United States in just a small speck,” declared Witt. 

“I still can’t believe something is actually going up there,” said Arrigo.

“These are the four main students and I played a little trick on them – I’ve known that they won for quite some time, but we couldn’t announce it,” explained Andrew Franz, International Prep science teacher.

You may recall Franz lead a winning team back in 2015 at Hamlin Park Academy in Buffalo for the Spud Launchers. 

“But this isn’t spud launchers 2.0. These are very, very talented kids in their own right – very smart, very intelligent. They have a deadline January 18th where they actually get to go to Buff State and measure out the samples and figure out what’s actually going to into this tube to the International Space Station.  Like the Spud Launchers – they really dedicated themselves – this was three hours a day for two-and-half months in afterschool, writing, researching and especially the Everett sisters, they would take it home and Sole Witt, and actually do research at home, which not to get a grade on something and do all that extra research, I think is commendable,” said Franz.    

Outside International Prep on Buffalo's west side.
Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley

The International Prep project is expected to be by astronauts on the International Space Station next spring or summer 2019.      

WNY teams continue to be well-presented in this project. For 2018  Wellsville Secondary School launched their experiment on ascorbic acid that - may have healing potential to promote cell regeneration in space.

“WNY STEM Hub is excited that once again a team from Western New York has created an exceptional original experiment for the International Space Station. Students who participate in the Take Flight Space Program receive an authentic, real-world, research experience that can forever endear them to STEM careers especially those in space,” said Michelle Kavanaugh, WNY STEM Hub, president.  “This program is not a simulation but the chance for students to discover the challenges of doing experiments in a weightless environment. These Buffalo Public School Students will forever be able to say they created something that went to space. “