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'To infinity and beyond': Hamlin Park students project heads to space

WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley

A team of three students from the Hamlin Park School Public School #74 in Buffalo emerged the top winners as they participated in part of the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program in the classroom. WBFO's Focus on Education Reporter Eileen Buckley says the local students scored big in a STEM competition.

"I was very surprised," said Garbiella Melendez, 7th grader at Hamlin. She is the principal investigator of "Tuber Growth in Microgravity".  Melendez came up with this idea to grow potatoes in space when she was watching the movie The Martian.

"That was my main idea -- like maybe I could try this, maybe it could be possible to actually do it, so that movie was my inspiration," responded Melendez.

Credit Photo provided by WNY STEM Hub.
WNY STEM Hub, students, parents, teachers and school board member gather for photo.

This project has caught the attention of NASA researchers.  It will literally head into space this June when the attempt to grow potatoes in space on the International Space Station. 

"Do you think it will work?" asked Buckley. "I believe that it will because we learned that something like this has been done," replied Melendez. "We want to be successful, so it has to work more than one time."

Hamlin Park 8th graders Shaniylah Welch and Toriana Cornwell are co-investigators on the team. "It was fun and we tried different experiments," said Cornwell in a WBFO interview.

"Once they get it up to to space after the six weeks is over, they are going to bring it back down to earth and plant it back here to see if it grows," stated Cornwell. 

The STEM program continues to encourage students to learn about science, technology, engineering and math. Both Hamlin Park students embrace what they've learned.

"I do see myself kind of doing science," said Melendez. "I'm kind of into chemical equations and testing, that's what I'm into, like lab work."

"I going to be a scientist,"said Cornwell. 

Hamlin Park team was among more than 300-students from ten public and charter schools who competed. Western New York STEM Hub organized The Buffalo Niagara Coalition of Schools.

Other finalists: “The Effect of a Microgravity Environment on the Rate of  Breast Cancer Cell Growth” from Global Concepts Charter High School in Lackawanna and “The Battle of Antibiotics vs Bacteria in Microgravity” from Harry Abate Elementary School in Niagara Falls.  Honorable mention proposals recognized were:  “The Effects of Gravity on Crystal Formation & Growth” from Community School #53 in Buffalo, “Will Ozone Serve as a More Effective Growth Inhibitor in Microgravity than on Earth?” from Niagara Falls High School, “Polyurethane in Microgravity” from the Buffalo Academy of Science Charter School and “Kombucha Fermentation in Microgravity” from Gaskill Preparatory School in Niagara Falls.

Hamlin Park's Melendez has a message for NASA. "Thank you for giving me this opportunity and that I look forward to working with them and see how far this experiment goes."

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