Hoboken Teens’ Project Gravity Chosen To Head To The Space Station


HOBOKEN, NJ – Two Hoboken High School juniors’ gravity experiment – “The effect of microgravity on catheter biofilm formation by the bacterium Pseudomonas fluorescens” – has been selected for a flight around the International Space Station .

Essentially, it examines how microgravity affects the formation of harmful bacteria on vital medical equipment.

If you still don’t understand this, Kai Hultstrom and Feline Dirkx could explain it to you.

Last year, they and other Hoboken High School students began participating in Mission 16 of the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP) to the International Space Station (ISS).

Students worked in teams to design a question, conducted research, communicated with professional advisers in the field, performed experiments, and collected and analyzed their data.

Three of the proposals were submitted to the National Step 2 Review Board led by the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education (NCESSE).

Last December, Nanoracks conducted a preliminary review of flight experiences to ensure they met safety requirements for flight.

“We are thrilled to announce that the project of 11th graders Kai Hultstrom and Feline Dirkx has been selected for flight on the International Space Station!” the district announced Thursday. “This study will be launched in Spring/Summer 2022. Reviewers were impressed with the ‘sleek and simple’ experimental design of the study.”

The scientific question these two budding researchers assigned to their study was “Does a microgravity environment affect the growth of Pseudomonas fluorescens biofilm?”

Their hypothesis is that if Pseudomonas fluorescens is exposed to a microgravity environment, biofilm growth will accelerate. Biofilms are harmful secretions produced by microorganisms that can often block catheters and interfere with other medical devices in clinical settings. A catheter is a tube used to deliver medications and fluids to patients.

For their experiment, they will set up identical tubes, inoculated with this microorganism, with a section of catheter immersed in a growth medium. They will be able to assess the amount of biofilm growth using both a spectrophotometer and visual analysis.

They designed an experiment that makes perfect use of the Fluid Mixing Enclosure (FME) “mini-lab system” device that will be sent into space and operated by an astronaut aboard the ISS. The same experiment will be conducted at Hoboken High School, so a direct comparison of biofilm growth can be made.

“Congratulations to all of our participants in this amazing program, and especially Kai and Feline,” the school said. “We look forward to watching and learning the results of your project in the future.”

The Student Spaceflight Experiments Program [or SSEP] is a program of the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education (NCESSE) in the United States and the Arthur C. Clarke Institute for Space Education internationally. It is made possible through a strategic partnership with Nanoracks LLC, which is working with NASA under a Space Act agreement for the use of the International Space Station as a national laboratory.


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