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WNY Stem Hub prepares for Student Spaceflight Experiments

WBFO News file photo by Eileen Buckley

Western New York STEM Hub is bringing a Student Spaceflight Experiments program to more than 600-Buffalo and Niagara Falls public and charter school students.  WBFO'S Focus on Education Reporter Eileen Buckley says an effort is underway to raise the needed funds to support the project. 

"The program is a highly successful, very real experience for students in grades 5 through 12 to design a science experiment that may be flown to the international Space Station," explains Michelle Kavanaugh, President of the WNY STEM Hub.   

Starting this fall students will on teams , working for nine-weeks developing an experiment and writing a real space-flight proposal. 

Right now WNY STEM is working to raise $23,000 by the end of this month.  It will help pay the fee for the students project to actually make it to space.

"So that we can reserve space on the shuttle for the experiment in its micro gravity lab to go tot the International Space Station and that will include things like insurance coverage," said Kavanaugh. "Students who have participated in previous missions have actually experience the loss of their experiments due to shuttle malfunctions." 
As the the organization secures community's support to fund this project, Buffalo Public School teacher is anxious to begin working with students on this space project.  Michelle Zimmerman is a Science Teacher the Math Science Technology School. She just completed a summer STEM Camp.

Credit WBFO News file photo by Eileen Buckley
MST students demonstrated a STEM project back in 2014 at their school.

"Give them an assignment and let them sort of grow and let their imagine and creativity come out, and it needs a lot of coaxing in the beginning," stated Zimmerman.

STEM learning has been encouraged strongly among female students.

"The girls really seem to be the ones who are more ambitious and more willing to, right off the get go, get their hands into manipulating whatever it is. The boys come along, but the boys I have to push and tug a little bit," said Zimmerman.
Zimmerman has some experience when it comes to space flight education. She participated in the Hunts Alabama Space Camp for educators. Zimmerman received hands-on astronaut training.  Zimmerman is among 29-teachers at 10-schools who volunteering to participate in the space flight program.  647-students joining the program.

"So some of the teachers, such as Michelle, have already begun to explore the wealth of resources available through the National Center for Earth and Space Science," said Kavanaugh.  "Many of the teachers have asked the students to think about their research question."

Credit WBFO News file photo by Eileen Buckley
STEM labs at the Niagara Falls High School.

Kavanaugh notes many schools are only at the beginning phase of providing STEM. But she said it's the goal for entire school systems top provide STEM learning from Kindergarten through 12th grade and connected with colleges in their communities. However, there are some misconceptions about what STEM provides for students.

"I think many people think STEM is just more science or more math, actually STEM is much more. It's about giving students opportunities to solve real-world problems and have real-world experiences that combined all those subjects in a very meaningful way for students," stated Kavanaugh. "It's also about exposing students to role models and careers." 

"It's not just your teacher standing in front of you telling how it's going to be," said Zimmerman.  
STEM students are encouraged to be inquiring minded and think critically. "Kids love to have that control," said Kavanaugh.  "Once their confidence is there, they can really, the sky is the limit," Zimmerman noted.

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