Mt. Hope student innovators are ‘Go For Launch’

With a plan to cure cancer using a tiny box of flies, Mt. Hope students win a regional STEM competition

By Christy Nadalin
Posted 11/14/19

The first weekend in November, four local high school students, including freshman Shivani Mehta and sophomores Mikayla Hudon, Kristiana Cabral and Aditi Mehta, took one step closer to launching into …

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Mt. Hope student innovators are ‘Go For Launch’

With a plan to cure cancer using a tiny box of flies, Mt. Hope students win a regional STEM competition

Posted

The first weekend in November, four local high school students, including freshman Shivani Mehta and sophomores Mikayla Hudon, Kristiana Cabral and Aditi Mehta, took one step closer to launching into space. Or their work did, at least.

The students participated in the regional “Go For Launch” competition in Providence, sponsored by NASA and Higher Orbits, a non-profit founded by a former NASA operations expert. The organization’s mission is to  promote science, technology, engineering and math; along with leadership, teamwork, and communication; through the use of spaceflight.

The students are all part of the school’s Solve For Tomorrow team, a group that has already earned accolades for its pitch to install 3-D crosswalks at dangerous intersections. That project was inspired by the July 2018 death of a young boy at the intersection of Poppasquash Road and the East Bay Bike Path.

Go For Launch! immerses students in the wonder of human spaceflight through a variety of talks delivered by experts in the fields of space and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). Speakers have included an astronaut, former International Space Station (ISS) and Space Shuttle flight controllers, astronaut instructors, scientists, and engineers. Students get insight and feedback from experienced space and STEM professionals whose goals are to illustrate the numerous possibilities that exist in the world of STEM.

A unique facet of Go For Launch! is that students will work with an astronaut throughout the event.

Broken into teams, every talk features collaborative activity, before or after, where students must work together to complete tasks for daily awards. The culminating exercise is a design project. Each team must define and design a space experiment and present their ideas to a panel of judges from the Space and STEM fields, who will then choose a winner from each Go For Launch! event.

Depending on funding, the experiment will either launch, or it will be in competition with a handful of other projects from the same series, and the series winner will have their experiment launched to the International Space Station.

The students participating in the regional event in Providence worked for 20 hours, developing their teamwork and problem-solving skills. They won the “Space Glove” challenge as they honed their skills on the first day, ultimately winning the Northeast regional competition. They are now in the national round, competing against four other teams from around the U.S. The winners will have their experiment launched into space and conducted by astronauts at the International Space Station in the summer of 2020.

Their experiment? No big deal — just looking to cure cancer.

“We were testing the effects of microgravity, and it had to fit in a 4 by 4 inch cube,” said Aditi Mehta.

“So we decided to test how Drosophila flies’ behavior and aging would change in microgravity,” said Kristiana Cabral. “We predicted that they would not interact with each other as much; due to gravitational time dilation they would age slower, because time moves differently.”

“So the real world application for this would be because the flies that we used, their immune systems are very similar to humans, so that would give us a better idea how humans would interact,” said Shivani Mehta. “We were thinking that the way time changes due to gravity, it could help cure cancer by stopping the growth of tumors.”

“I am so proud of these STEM champions!” said Mt. Hope High School Principal Dr. Deborah DiBiase.

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