A group of four secondary school students from Limerick are set to be the first Irish teenagers to launch their science experiment to be conducted in space. The lucky transition year students from St Nessan’s Community College in Co. Limerick were announced as winners of ‘The Only Way is Up’ competition run by The Irish Centre for Composites Research (IComp) at the University of Limerick, through its partnership with NanoRacks LLC. The competition, which is the first of it’s kind in Ireland, gave students across the country the opportunity to submit experiments to be flown to, and carried out on, the International Space Station.
The winning project will investigate the effects that microgravity has on the solidification of reinforced concrete and will spend 30 days orbiting the Earth. The microgravity experiment is scheduled to blast off on the Orbital Sciences Orb-2 mission to the ISS from NASA Wallops this coming May. The space experiment will be returned to the students post spaceflight and will allow them to directly compare the results to a ground controlled experiment.
The competition is co-ordinated by Dr. Norah Patten, Communications and Outreach manager for the Irish Centre for Composites Research (IComp) at the University of Limerick. Dr. Patten said: “Space provides an ideal platform to foster interest and enthusiasm in young minds in Ireland. This project has allowed Irish students the opportunity to develop an actual space experiment and for the first time launch it to the space station. It is a clear indication of where space is at – through our partnership with NanoRacks LLC, Irish students can finally put their research into space.”
The project was selected by a team of international judges from a number of projects from all over Ireland and Dr. Patten explains “the creativity and thought process from the students was incredible – they did a great job and should be very proud. This project has opened space up to Irish students; it has allowed them an opportunity to develop and create real space research and will hopefully encourage more young students in Ireland toward this fascinating area”. A YouTube channel ‘Ireland’s first secondary school experiment in space’ has been created to allow the public follow this project as it evolves.
‘The Only Way is Up’ is funded by Science Foundation Ireland Discover Science and Engineering, the Irish Centre for Composites Research (IComp) and the Faculty of Science and Engineering at the University of Limerick. It is enabled through a partnership with NanoRacks LLC and is supported by the National Centre for Excellence in Maths and Science Teaching and Learning (NCE-MSTL) and the Materials and Surface Science Institute (MSSI).