Middle schoolers open up high-flying space cube

9:26 AM, Apr 29, 2013   |    comments
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Brandon, Florida -- Science at the edge of space? It's not just for NASA. Kids right here in the Bay Area got to send their experiments sky-high.

10 News was there as students at McLane Middle School in Brandon opened up their high-flying package.

When you see middle schoolers gathered around, excited about unwrapping something, it has to be a gizmo -- like a new iPod or something -- right?

No, no. This is science.

The students gathered around to watch the opening of a MiniCube. It's a tiny white box that gets hooked to a balloon and can take items -- and imaginations -- right up to the edge of space.

Gregory Cecil helped his students at McLane pack theirs with four experiments.

Up and up it went -- 20 miles -- to the top of the stratosphere. After this incredible journey, the cube came back here to Brandon.

Team one asked: Would popcorn kernels pop when they get to where there's almost no air around them? Nope.

"I thought it was going to at least have one kernel that popped, but nothing happened," disappointed eighth grader Khadija Abbot said.

Team two sent marshmallows.

Student Edesha Holly thought the sweet treats would "blow up -- get bigger and softer." But the opposite happened.

Team three tucked radish seeds into their box. We'll know in a few days whether facing extra radiation and 65-degrees-below-zero air will get them growing differently from other seeds kept here on earth.

"I hope it's going to grow," team member Quanazhea Gorham said.

Team four sent a USB thumb drive packed with music, pictures, and information.

"We were trying to find out if any of the images or sounds would be altered in any way, shape, or form," Gabriella Santos said as she used a laptop to open the various files stored on the flash drive.

"We thought it would be different, but I guess not -- because everything here seems like it's looking pretty good."

It cost a few hundred dollars for a group called JP Aerospace to launch the cube.

The school was able to do it thanks to a grant from the Armed Forces Communications Electronics Association. The Hillsborough Education Foundation lined up that grant.

For their teacher, who once worked on the Space Shuttle Program, this is about much more than songs, seeds, and sweets. It's about dreams.

"I got to send something to the other side of space," eighth grader Santos said, eyes open wide. "I got to send something that was out of earth, and that was really cool."

"If they're shown that it can be done -- that even they can do this -- who knows what they're going to grow up to be?" teacher Gregory Cecil said.

"They can touch the sky."

Grayson Kamm, 10 News

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