High-level learning

Students simulate effects of outer space
Friday, February 27, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 12:41 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Students involved in the Young Astronauts Club at Benton Elementary School finally found out what effects space would have on everyday materials when they visited the headquarters of the Columbia Aeronautic and Space Association on Thursday.

CASA is a student-run program completing its 16th annual aerospace simulation at Hickman High School. Thursday’s visit was the result of an exchange between the Young Astronauts and CASA students and involved a simulation of an actual experiment NASA launched in July 2001.

Mission 1604: “The Solar Alternative,” took off Feb. 23 and will land Saturday. During this six-day, five-night mission, students from Columbia and mid-Missouri simulate emergencies, complete scientific research and create live news shows.

Young astronauts tested effects of simulated space on objects

The Benton club’s sponsor, Elaine Kent, said her group of six young astronauts went into a “sterile lab” at the elementary school. Wearing rubber gloves, the group placed a sample of each material into film capsules, secured the items in a silver briefcase and brought the case to CASA headquarters.


Benton Elementary students chose several items to study, including rice and an iron nail, and brought them to Hickman High School sealed in plastic film canisters.(NICOLE KRIEG/Missourian)

Thursday’s visit was a chance to find out how the materials were affected by the simulated space mission. The results were revealed during a live television program on channel 16, Mediacom’s cable education channel.

“They are looking forward to seeing this thing (CASA headquarters) for real because they can relate to it personally,” Kent said before the students had a chance to tour the facility.

Although the products chosen by the six young astronauts never actually left Earth, CASA students researched what general effects space would have on edibles, metals, plastics, glass and other items. CASA students manipulated the materials so that the elementary students could see the results for themselves.

Club predicted impact on materials

The Young Astronaut Club members — Alex Morris, Dale Vetter, Adam Morrison, Katie Bartlett, Tre Hern and Michael Tatum — had several ideas about how the materials would be transformed.

“Radiation of the sun would affect all kinds of stuff,” Dale said.

Alex was interested in finding out how ultra-violet rays changed things. Tre said weather may play a factor.

Out of the 20 samples, the students found that a number of their predictions were correct

Michael Tatum, the only Benton student involved in the CASA simulation all week and the youngest participant, was surprised by the change in the Styrofoam.

“We didn’t think the Styrofoam would take the shape of the canister,” Michael said.

Teachers say Young Astronauts Club fosters thirst for knowledge

YAC meets once a week and is open to Benton fourth- and fifth-graders. Kent, who has been the club’s sponsor for 10 years, said the students choose the discussion topics.

Fred Thompson, Hickman teacher and CASA director, said getting children involved in science at an early age is crucial.

“If you can peak an interest in science and math early, and they can apply it, it will set a hook in the students for a quest of further knowledge,” Thompson said.

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