CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – When a SpaceX rocket lifts off from the Space Coast on Aug. 28, a group of Girl Scouts from across the nation will be watching from the beach.
Onboard the Dragon cargo ship will be three experiments the students helped develop as part of a collaboration between the International Space Station National Lab, SpaceKids Global and Girl Scouts of Citrus.
“Part of the role of the ISS National Lab is to help foster and engage the next generation of scientists and engineers, so this is a fantastic opportunity for us to be able to work alongside some local entities but also to reach out to national audiences as well and get them excited about how the ISS can bring value to life here on Earth. It’s not just about launching something right now, but how that might be able to open opportunities or avenues about science or engineering in the future. You don’t just have to be an astronaut, you can be whatever you want to be in this industry,” said Patrick O’Neill, the Public Affairs and Outreach Lead for the International Space Station, U.S. Laboratory.
The CEO of SpaceKids Now reached out to the Girl Scouts of Citrus, and together they created the platform “Making Space for Girls.” The goal is to get girls in kindergarten through 12th grade interested in STEAM, or science, technology, engineering, arts and math. They invited Girl Scouts from across the nation to participate in a competition to develop experiments for the ISS.
“To sit there and watch their excitement. Now we have their attention. We have to keep them engaged. So we’re looking across the county for companies that have activities for kids so we can get them excited about their futures in the space industry,” said Sharon Hagle, CEO of SpaceKids Global.
The Girl Scouts contributed to three investigations. The first is a plant experiment to evaluate growth patterns in space and in zero gravity. The second involves ants in space, to learn more about how they adapt to a microgravity environment, and if they can work collectively without a leader. And the third is with brine shrimp, also known as sea monkeys. Scientists will study how these model organisms adapt to life in space, given how differently fluids function in space.
Maryann Barry, the CEO of Girl Scouts of Citrus Council, said they are planning a beach pajama party to watch the launch. She explained that scientists at the company ProXops took the ideas from the students and developed them into the investigations that will fly to the ISS.
“We had a lot of proposals about a lot of things but they were really able to capitalize on what the girls had to offer to create those experiments and give a lot of girls the opportunity to say they participated in it,” Barry said. “I think it’s going to be such an amazing moment and we’re really excited to celebrate with the girls out on the beach in the middle of the night.”
Girl Scout Ambassador Marie Young, 17, said this is the perfect way to end her time as a Girl Scout. She is heading to college in the spring and plans to major in communications. She credits the Girls Scouts with helping her develop well-rounded interests.
“I just want to encourage girls to join GS so they have the opportunity to really grow their interests. You know, you might like writing, but hey, you might like writing about these projects, about space and about NASA. And there are so many opportunities to grow with science and math. And it’s not just learning about science and math. It’s learning about critical thinking and being creative within those fields. And this is very much a STEAM project, and including the arts within that is very important, so you can see how it all connects.” she said.
This year, the mission challenge was only open to Girl Scouts, however, in the future, it will be open to all girls interested in space. To learn more, visit Making Space for Girls.