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Canfield High students’ project to soar with NASA

Canfield High School junior Emily Heino makes the final connections on monitoring and control equipment with the help of Tony Russo and Eddie Wires. The electronics will be placed into a box and will monitor the CHS experiment of growing crystals at 70,000 feet in a NASA balloon launch this summer. CHS is one of 60 teams nationwide to take part in the mission.

CANFIELD — This summer, a group of Canfield High School juniors from the advanced placement chemistry class will be watching closely as their science experiment heads up into the sky to an altitude of 70,000 feet.

The students are one group of 60 winning teams from across the United States who were selected for the second NASA TechRise Challenge.

The students on a team called ChemCrew submitted their application with their experiment earlier this school year. They were notified last month that they were one of 60 teams selected for one of two NASA high-altitude balloon launches.

“NASA’s missions of tomorrow are sparked by the accomplishments of the Artemis Generation today in classrooms across America,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said recently. “Through opportunities like the TechRise Student Challenge, young people are deepening their passion in science and technology, preparing to be the future innovators and pioneers who help humanity soar to new heights and unlock more secrets of the universe.”

The Canfield experiment will involve growing crystals. Canfield High School science teacher Tom Slaven said his classes are growing crystals that take 20 minutes, one hour, and some that take weeks. The three types all will fit in one small box for the NASA mission.

In space, the Canfield team will observe what crystal growth does when affected by the altitude and the ultraviolet rays at that atmospheric height.

NASA already has sent basic electronics equipment and the clear box in which everything must fit.

Last week, the class completed the initial assembly of the basic NASA electronics and turned it on for a test. The students also are working with NASA engineers while assembling their package for the balloon.

The team was given $1,500 to spend on ordering specialized equipment needed to conduct the experiment. For example, to grow crystals requires what Slaven calls a “seed crystal.” A liquid solution is then used to cause the crystal to grow or expand. As soon as the liquid is applied, the growth begins.

On board the NASA balloon, and at 70,000 feet, there will be no one to pour the liquid over the seed crystals. Students have to purchase the right devices to control and dispense the liquid to start the experiment. The on-board camera will document the crystal growth as that happens.

“The students will be looking for the crystals to grow faster or grow bigger,” Slaven said.

The unfortunate aspect about the program is that the balloon launches will take place over the summer. The Canfield juniors will be out of school and enjoying the summer before their senior year.

“We would like to have a watch party,” Slaven said. “NASA is going to live- stream the experiment as it happens.”

This fall when they return as seniors, most will be taking an advanced class and will be able to see and use the results of the experiment, as well as benefiting upcoming juniors.

The ChemCrew is made up of students Anthony Ambrose, Katelyn Bacha, Scott Fleming, Emily Heino, Harjote Kaur, Anna Kerns, Anthony Mazzella, Sachin Nallapaneni, Febnin Nepal, Vivian Nohra, Tony Russo and Eddie Wires.

They have been joined by Irene Dong, Jocelyn Zhao, Quinton Miller, Maddie Ross and Dylan Aubel. “These five also submitted an experiment for the NASA program, but were not selected, so we had them join the ChemCrew so they could gain the experience,” Slaven said.

The Canfield High School students will have a rare experience and the privilege of working on a live NASA experiment. The mission also has brought a lot of pride to school Principal Mike Moldovan.

“I am extremely proud of our students and Mr. Tom Slaven for his guidance,” he said. “This is something I’ve never seen in my 45 years of education. I am literally ‘over the moon.'”

jtwhitehouse@vindy.com

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