A question from a West Lafayette second grader has turned into an outer space experiment. A Cumberland Elementary School class is working with a Purdue University professor and an Ohio-based organization to figure out whether fireflies can light up in outer space. Purdue University students will help put together an experiment that will launch into space on a rocket ship rented through the Arete-STEM Foundation. As reported in the Life Sciences INdiana e-newsletter, the class hopes to launch the experiment this fall.
The students cannot send real fireflies to space, so a group of Purdue undergraduates is working to replicate the chemistry that causes fireflies to glow. Once the material is ready, it will be put into a four-inch cube and loaded onto the rocket.
It costs about $3,000 to launch the experiment on the commercial rocket. Purdue Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics Steven Collicot says, at that cost, it is "accessible to just about every school in the country." Cumberland Elementary School teacher Maggie Samudio is also hoping donations can help support the project.
After the rocket launches, the spacecraft’s computer system will trigger the chemicals onboard to mix. From there, a camera mounted inside the cube will record the results and return to earth. Samudio says, regardless of what happens, "It’s causing them to dream. You never know what kind of seed is going to be planted in a child."
Samudio says the project is making her students more inquisitive and hungry readers.