Local students in a nationwide space race - FOX 13 News

Local students in a nationwide space race

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TAMPA (FOX 13) -

Hillsborough County students kicked off a national space competition Tuesday.  About 1,100 students are participating in The Student Spaceflight Experiments Program.  FOX 13 visited fifth graders at Kingswood Elementary School in Brandon, as they began work on their experiments.

Student teams will design experiments they hope will work in zero gravity.  Kingswood Science Teacher Scott Coonfare says his students are excited to compete.

"Over the next few months, the students will be researching zero gravity experiments, and they'll be working in groups of three," said Coonfare, who is also head of Hillsborough County School's space program.  "After they do a lot of research, then they'll start doing the lab down here on Earth and trying to put it together.  Once they get it, they'll put a five page paper together."

"The winning Kingswood team gets to go into a competition with the other 12 schools (in the county).  At which point, they could be one of the winning team's (experiments) that go up to the International Space Station," Coonfare continued.

Students at Kingswood were additionally energized by a visit from NASA Contractor and Space Engineer Gabe Gabrielle.

"I think it's important for them to have goals and space is such an exciting area to explore.  You've got to have excitement and a desire to do something.  And if you have something that stirs your imagination, that's wonderful for them," said Gabrielle.

A panel of judges at each school will select a winning team to send to the district finals.  A district review board will then chose three finalists.  NASA will then pick a winning team.

Astronauts at the International Space Station will perform the winning experiment next year.  The students who win the competition will also present their experiment at the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. 

The Suncoast Schools Federal Credit Union Foundation provided a $19,500 grant to Hillsborough County Schools to help them compete.  The district also received $2,000 from the Florida Space Grant Consortium at the University of Central Florida.

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