COLUMBIA, S.C. — When the SpaceX rocket blasted off from Cape Canaveral Sunday, one of the things it was carrying was a science experiment designed by three South Carolina high school students. Astronauts aboard the International Space Station will perform the experiment.
Cedric McQueen, Parker Matthews, and Tevin Glover are all 10th-graders at Keenan High School in Columbia. Last year, they had to come up with an experiment idea in science class. They did some research and took bits and pieces of different ideas they found and put them together. Cedric McQueen explains that what they came up with was, “How does microgravity affect the turbidity of a non-Newtonian fluid.”
The non-Newtonian fluid is cornstarch mixed with water, which can act as both a solid and a liquid depending on the force applied to it. Turbidity is a measure of how much water loses its transparency because of suspended particulates that are floating in it.
“We were going to measure the turbidity of it after it came back from being in space, which is microgravity, and see if the results that we get back from it being in microgravity are different from it having gravity. So if it’s different, then, in space, what we’re hoping it will do is we’ll be able to grow plants beyond earth,” says Parker Matthews.
Their teacher entered their idea in the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program. It was one of 21 chosen for this SpaceX flight. “When the results came back that we had won, I didn’t know how to contain myself, ’cause it was so, it was a very proud moment in my life,” says Tevin Glover.
They’ll get the results back on March 20th and will compare them to what they found doing the same experiment here on earth.
Having an experiment get so much attention has been exciting, but it hasn’t changed any of their plans for the future. Cedric says he wants to go into something that’s math-based, Parker wants to go into sports journalism, and Tevin says he’s thinking about becoming a lawyer or judge. But they all say the notoriety should help them, regardless of what they try to do.
“It’ll get some eyes open from some colleges,” Parker says.
“This would look great as an accomplishment, because if I can accomplish this then I could probably accomplish many other things,” Tevin says.