Stellar performance from Skerries students
A group of young scientists from Skerries Community College, investigating ways of growing crops in space, are to have their project tested on a 'microgravity flight' next October, making them the first ever Irish teenagers to be selected for the flight.
Adam Kelly, who won this year's BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition, Sam Enright, Clíodhna O'Reardon and Evanna Niall created the project, which will investigate the feasibility of 'fine water mist absorption in microgravity.'
The team were selected as part of a unique partnership between the Irish Composites Centre (IComp) at University of Limerick's Bernal Institute and Project PoSSUM (Polar Suborbital Science in the Upper Mesosphere).
Students were asked to design an experiment for testing on a parabolic flight, and the Skerries team hope to address some of the challenges associated with developing sustainable sources of food for long-term space exploration.
Team captain Sam Enright said: 'We are delighted, it is never something we imagined we would be doing, making an experiment to go 'into space' on this microgravity flight and to learn insights into that.
'We went through a lot of ideas and because the brief was very specific, focusing on environmental impacts, we settled on growing plants, which is something that is going to be terrifically relevant to the future of space exploration and is completely necessary if you want to go to Mars or any further distances.'
PoSSUM will fly a number of microgravity flights in Ottawa, Canada at the National Research Council (NRC), which will include a number of different experiments, including the Irish one.
The initiative was led by Dr Norah Patten, Project Manager at IComp, who said: 'This is an opportunity for students to develop skills in STEM, teamwork, research and creativity - all of which are skills that are required throughout our careers.
'We have an exciting and busy summer ahead to get the experiment flight ready. I would have loved to have had this opportunity as a teenager', she added.
As part of the project, students were required to team up, with either a female lead or a minimum of two females per team, and develop ideas for experiments focused on environmental issues. The team will now work with experts at IComp and UL's Bernal Institute to prepare the experiment for the October flight.