When someone told 15-year-old Emma Grooms to reach for the stars, she took it literally! The Manchester High School sophomore was one a few selected students whose science project was sent to the International Space Station for testing.
Grooms’ adventure began when she attended the “Blast Off” Summer Enrichment Camp at Morehead State University, in Kentucky last summer. Emma received a scholarship through the South Central Ohio Educational Service Center’s Gifted Services Program. She also received a scholarship from the Ohio Association for Gifted Children. The two scholarships together paid her tuition to attend the five-day residential camp.
“It opened my eyes to this whole area of science (exo-medicine) that I wasn’t really aware of,” she said.
As part of the camp at Morehead, participating students were put into groups and only given a couple of days to develop a science project. Grooms’ group project combines bioluminescent proteins from jellyfish with E.coli bacteria, to measure whether the E.coli will produce the glowing recombinant proteins at a higher rate in microgravity.
“First we were going to do something with stem cells or human grown hormones, because it’s this type of recombinant protein. We then expanded on that after we talked with two high school biology teachers and two professors at Morehead. We bounced ideas off of them and they helped us come up with an idea that would be easier to test,” Grooms said. “We were just trying to find a replenishable source of protein for astronauts to use in their long-term space missions.”
A Lexington-based company called Space Tango was among the judges of that science event, and the winning projects were to be among those sent aboard a rocket for testing on the International Space Station. There were two categories for judging; a project for development and a mission patch design.
Grooms’ team of three won both categories.
In December, she and her teammates were invited to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, in Florida, to witness the SpaceX CRS-16 Cargo Mission rocket launch and to give a presentation about their project at the Kennedy Space Center. Among the supplies on the rocket en route to the ISS was Grooms’ science project. Her hypothesis will be tested for 28-days in zero-gravity.
“I felt so lucky. It was a great opportunity,” Grooms said.
Grooms had always been interested in pursuing astronomy or astrophysics after high school, but said the ESC has afforded her this experience and opened her eyes to a new medical field she had never considered before.
“We are extremely proud to be able to assist students like Emma as they pursue their interests and goals. Gifted students are often overlooked because people believe they will find success no matter what and that isn’t necessarily so. Opportunities like these help provide avenues for success. The only way we are able to provide these opportunities is through the generosity of local organizations, businesses and individuals who donate to our programs,” said Sharee Price, ESC gifted services coordinator.
For more information about the Summer Enrichment Program, or to make a donation, please contact Price at 740-354-0229. For more information about the ESC, visit online at www.scoesc.org, or follow on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter.