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Microgravity students make STEM Service-Learning a Priority

Microgravity students make STEM Service-Learning a Priority

Boise State University students make a difference in our community and will represent Boise State University on the national stage.

Dr. Elisa Barney Smith, Barbara Morgan, and Dr. Julia Oxford are guiding ENGR 475 Microgravity University students on a yearlong journey, as students propose, design, fabricate, fly, and evaluate a reduced gravity experiment for NASA’s Reduced Gravity Educational Flight Program. Their chosen topic must align with NASA’s priorities for future research, outlined in NASA’s Strategic Knowledge Gap (SKG) and Critical Technology Developments (CTD) documents. Like research proposals for the National Science Foundation, an important aspect of their research proposal is their outreach plan.

student running science table at conventionstudent showing kid an experiment at convention

In December, the team learned that they had been chosen by NASA to conduct their research on “Gravitational Effects of Cerebrospinal Fluid Pressure and Flow in an Anatomically Representative Model,” at Johnson Space Center. Their flight day is set for June, so there is much to do. This spring semester the students will not only get their experiment ready, complete supporting documentation, and fabricate the physical model used in their experiment; they will be out in the community conducting service-learning. Students in ENGR 475 have developed STEM service-learning opportunities with several community partners throughout the Treasure Valley. Their first service-learning event involved area elementary teachers in a workshop focused on connecting science and engineering to the Common Core State Standards.

students posing in a classroom

In their most recent outreach event, they participated in the STEM Exploration Day at Boise State University. This opportunity engaged these undergraduates in educating the public about their microgravity research and providing opportunities for children and adults to engage with Toys in Space microgravity experiments, and in constructing and launching Stomp Rockets. Additional upcoming outreach activities include: a STEM day with the Girl Scouts, a Mini-Microgravity University Competition at a local elementary school, and a STEM day with young mothers and toddlers at Marian Pritchett School.

student showing kid the science behind a spinning topstudent showing kid the science behind how a fish swims

This semester is going to be busy as these students carry full academic loads, in addition to their reduced gravity research project. The students are enjoying engaging with the community and have found their experience rewarding on many levels. They will represent Boise State University as one of only 18 university teams selected to participate in NASA’s Reduced Gravity Education Flight Program. These students from Boise State University will conduct research alongside NASA researchers and students from Purdue University, Stanford University, and Texas A & M University, to name a few.

student helping a kid build a rocket

To learn more about these students’ academic journey, please visit the Boise State University Microgravity Research Team’s website at

– Jill K. Hettinger, Boise State University Service-Learning

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