Students from Cumberland County vie for the chance to send their science experiments to the International Space Station

The 3rd annual STARward STEM Expo recently took place at Douglas Byrd High School in Fayetteville. Over 200 students from kindergarten through 12th grade attended the event, representing teams from various schools in the area. The winning teams will have their science projects sent to the International Space Station as “science payload.”

One student, Maura Richard, was particularly excited about the opportunity to design her own projects and potentially send them into space. In addition to the student winners, two teachers and a principal will attend the Space Academy for Educators in June at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Alabama.

Cumberland County STEM Education Director Frank McKay emphasized the importance of promoting education through events like the STEM Expo. He highlighted the value of focusing on what communities and the country need right now in terms of education.

Experiments at the expo can range from simple to complex. For example, student team The Fly Guys, including members Richard and Kyleigh James, are testing whether plant seeds can grow in outer space. Other experiments in the past have explored topics such as the impact of perchlorates, a chemical compound found in the soil on Mars, on aerospace aluminum alloy.

Denise Renfro, a teacher in Cumberland County, recalled a past experiment that investigated the effects of perchlorates on aerospace materials and how it related to corrosion on the Mars rover. The innovation and creativity of students participating in the expo have led to exciting discoveries and opportunities for their projects to be sent to the ISS.

The winners of this year’s STARward STEM Expo will be announced on Tuesday evening.

By Riley Johnson

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