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Today's scheduled launch of SpaceX Dragon will feature student experiments designed by teams from two local schools.

The Avicenna Academy Science Community Collaboration's during the 2011-12 academic year consisted of three Lake County schools — Avicenna Academy in Crown Point, Highland Christian School and Forest Ridge Academy in Schererville.

"AASCC organized students into groups through which research was carried out and ultimately an experimental design proposal resulted," said Avicenna Academy Principal Amanda Arceo. "The experimental design is one that will test the effect of microgravity on some biological, chemical or physical system."

AASCC had 388 students participating and 48 topics proposed. "All AASCC proposals were sent to a panel of professional scientists tasked with selecting the top three proposals. From there, the three proposals were sent to National Center for Earth and Space Science, which had a final selection panel to select the top proposal from each community," Arceo said.

The top proposal, or in AASCC's case, the top two proposals, will be sent to the International Space Station aboard the SpaceX Dragon. "Not only is this historic as it's the first SSEP mission to the ISS, but the two student experiments from Lake County are among only 15 experiments from 12 communities in the only scientific payload aboard the first commercial carrier flight to deliver payloads to the International Space Station," Arceo added.

The winning experiments, from Avicenna Academy and Highland Christian School, were prepped and shipped to Houston awaiting today's launch. One experiment, from Avicenna Academy, intends to determine the effect of microgravity on the curli, which are external protrusions, produced by the pathogenic bacteria, E. coli O157:H7 strain 43895OR.

The primary investigator, student Amalia Arceo-Hosken worked with co-investigator Jenna Rifai, both seasoned SSEPers, to brainstorm topics. "Amalia and Jenna's interest in microbiology began last year, with AASCC's first experience with SSEP," Arceo said. "Since then both girls, along with other AASCC students, have had the opportunity to work in laboratories at the University of Notre Dame and Indiana University Northwest."

Also, Highland Christian School's Jack Barth, JP Peerbolte and Cameron Zandstra are sending an experiment that will determine the effect of microgravity on the quality and nutritional value of the seed sprout of a germinated 92M72 genetically modified soy bean.

AASCC looks toward the future as Arceo eyes Mission 3 to ISS. "Avicenna Academy, in conjunction with Highland Christian School, looks to expand AASCC. I am open to working with other schools around Northwest Indiana for our next mission and I encourage administrators and science teachers to contact me to join us as we prepare, yet again, to go to space," said Arceo, available at ms.arceo.avicenna@gmail.com or (808) 292-7030.

The SSEP on-orbit educational research opportunity is enabled through NanoRacks LLC, in partnership with NASA under a Space Act Agreement as part of the utilization of the ISS as a National Laboratory.

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