Students to visit NASA

Published 11:39 pm Friday, March 25, 2011

NASA: From left, Elizabeth Petry, gifted teacher, stands with fifth-grade students Laura Brooks and Emily Marlin. The three will be going to Florida in May to participate in the NASA Explorer Schools Student Symposium at the Kennedy Space Center.

Two local girls will have an opportunity in May that few people will ever have — visiting the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Mack Benn Jr. Elementary School fifth-graders Laura Brooks and Emily Marlin and gifted teacher Elizabeth Petry will take part in the NASA Explorer Schools Student Symposium at the Kennedy Space Center in May.

When the two best friends and classmates found out that they had been chosen to participate in the symposium, they were ecstatic.

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“Our hearts just jumped out of our chests,” Emily said.

“The feeling is kind of like being at the top of the ride when your stomach jumps,” Laura said. “It’s probably not going to hit us until we’re on the way to Florida.”

To be eligible to participate in the symposium, students competed against other elementary, middle and high school NASA Explorer Schools nationally via videoconference.

The students had to create an experiment based on NASA missions or research interests, conduct the experiment and present their findings via videoconference. The students were evaluated based on their ability to successfully conduct the experiment and present their findings in an organized and professional manner.

Petry found out about the competition through her local NASA Explorer School representative and invited Laura and Emily to participate.

“I believed they were the most capable,” Petry said. “They had showed me that I could count on them. When a goal was at hand, that they could achieve that goal. It’s just, to me, a phenomenal experience for them.”

The students will attend the symposium May 4-7, where they will present their findings on yeast temperature tolerance to other students and scientists and view other students’ presentations.

About 70 students representing 35 schools will be presenting at the symposium.

“Being two out of 70 for the entire country is remarkable,” Petry said. “It’s a way for them to share information and secure their own knowledge.”

This will be an opportunity for many new experiences. This will be the first time Laura has flown in an airplane, the first time the girls have traveled together and the first time either has visited the Kennedy Space Center.

“I think it will be a good experience for me and Laura,” Emily said. “It’s kind of intimidating, but I think we will do really well. We have a good chance of winning.”

The girls continued working through their project even when it became difficult. They were confident that they would succeed and move on to the symposium in Florida. They expect to impress even the high school students.

“There were times we wanted to quit, but we kept looking forward to the fact that we’re going to Florida,” Laura said. “I want to see their faces drop when they see what we’re doing. Elementary school students are smart, they’re just small.”

“I’m a big fan of science,” Emily said. “I’m looking forward to learning more about space and more about NASA, so we can do more projects like this.”