Another student team tapped by NASA

Published 8:35 pm Thursday, March 29, 2012

Sydney Ricks and Angela Miller demonstrate their experiment showing how yeast can flourish on Mars. The Nansemond Parkway Elementary School students will present the project to NASA at a May event in Houston, Texas.

Another North Suffolk school is turning heads at NASA after a second pair of students, from Nansemond Parkway Elementary School, was selected to present a science project to the space agency in Houston, Texas.

At the 2012 NASA Student Symposium in May, Sydney Ricks and Angela Miller will join two other local students, from Mack Benn Jr. Elementary School, who were featured in an earlier News-Herald story.

The girls’ teacher, Shannon Boldizar, is proud after they designed an experiment showing that yeast can flourish in the Martian environment.

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“They really worked very hard and understood the depth of the project,” Boldizar said.

“Some of this stuff was above their grade level; they had to learn new scientific information just to be able to do the experiment.”

As explained by Angela, 10, the girls used a bucket of cold water, a bucket of warm water, two balloons, two empty bottles and a packet of yeast to prove their hypothesis.

“We filled the bottles with yeast (diluted in water), stretched balloons over the top, and put them in the buckets,” she said. “Then we used a measuring tape to measure the circumference of each balloon.

“Both of them filled up with carbon dioxide, which was surprising. That showed that the yeast is an extremophile.”

An extremophile, by the way, is defined in the Merriam-Webster online dictionary as “an organism that lives under extreme environmental conditions.”

The girls’ project is dubbed “Dancing Flubber,” and Sydney, 9, said the experience of presenting it to NASA scientists during a videoconference was a little nerve-wracking.

“We were nervous, but it worked out,” she said. “We’re excited to be going to Texas.”

So is her teacher.

“I have never been to Texas,” Boldizar said. “My mom says I have wanted to go there ever since I was 3.

“I’m excited to have three days off work. I come to work all the time. I only get days off when we have vacation. I don’t like to take days off.”

Boldizar said the symposium and other such learning experiences helped develop children’s reasoning skills.

“They learned something really educational in the process because during their interview, they were questioned (intensely) … it was almost as if they were tying to stump them,” she said.