Knoxville middle school students win NASA science competition

KNOXVILLE (WATE) – For a group of five Vine Middle Magnet School students, the dream of being fully-fledged scientists isn’t too far off. By the end of the week, the group will be in Cape Canaveral touring the Kennedy Space Center and watching a real-time NASA launch.

The Vine Middle Magnet team won the Student Space Flight Experiments Program Competition. The members were: Chandler Arnold, Sude Buyuktazeler, Shukurani Cimpaye, Jairo Tomas, and Tayon Wright. The team adviser, Melody Hawkins is also an eighth grade science teacher at Vine.

“We decided to do this on a micro gravity environment and see if it would work.” said Jairo Tomas.

The students were responsible for writing a scientific research proposal detailing their findings. The students at Vine Magnet chose blue green algae to research, test and setup and experiment that eventually NASA chose as one of the national winners.

“Blue green algae can infest in many waters and cause harm to our health and cause harm to animals.” said Tomas.

The students say they’re excited about the weekend trip to Florida. This will be the first of two trips for the contest. This weekend, they will go as competition finalists. They’ll be able to watch Bearden Middle’s team experiment be sent to the International Space Station for further testing. Later this year, the Vine team will go back to watch their own experiment be launched.

Hawkins says she’s proud of their accomplishments. She says they each brought something special to the team and project.

“Chandler, he’s very good at seeing the big picture. Shukurani is an amazing writer. Sude is a thinker. Jairo, he is very good at respecting everyone’s opinions. Tayon is really good with numbers.” said Hawkins.

Bearden Middle won the Student Space Flight Experiments Program Competition last year. The program is part of the national STEM education program run by the National Center for Earth and Space Science.

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