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GK: An Eye on the Stars

Coed Venturing crew 209 and Boy Scouts of America troop 209 in Palatine, Illinois consisting of some of the brightest young minds, has developed an experiment that will be making its way to space on August 14th. The program is called Our Team Ames for Space. If you are thinking you’ve spotted a grammatical error you’ve noticed the clever play on words in their title. “Ames” is actually the model for their experiment, defined as “a test to determine the mutagenic activity of chemicals by observing whether they cause mutations in sample bacteria.”

The troop is sending bacteria into space aboard the SpaceX-12 Rocket to identify how the bacteria will mutate in microgravity as opposed to its mutation rate on Earth. The kids grade 5 through 17 handled all aspects of the experiment including Camera positioning to view each individual test sample, designing and building the mechanics of the trays to be able to rotate in front of the camera. As well as programming and coding to manipulate the equipment through controls that they designed – all of which must fit inside a 4” by 4” by 6” box and the bacteria must remain frozen until its arrival on station. The experiment itself will run a duration 34 days, and if all goes exactly as planned, will deliver over 9200 images.

Each team is given a mentor in the fields of biology, software, hardware, and mechanical engineering to assist with problem-solving and brainstorming direction and provided with access to CNC machines, 3D Printers, and Laser cutters, and all of the kids are now well-versed in solid modeling OR software programming.

One of our very own, GK’s Director of Continual Improvement, Nikki Sullivan volunteered her time over the past 2.5 years of this project as a Mechanical Engineering Mentor. Because of Nikki’s role in the temperature control aspect specifically with configuring the heat transfer/dry ice transport she was sent to deliver the experiment to the Center for Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) which manages the International Space Station (ISS) and has been a crucial in providing spaceflight research experts to handle any big questions the team may have. Nikki must guide a pair of scouts to complete the assembly of the experiment in a -20 degrees C freezer at the Space Life Sciences Laboratory at Kennedy Space Center and hand it over to CASIS.

The SpaceX-12 is scheduled to launch on August 14, 2017. General Kinematics will be sure to have their eyes on the stars to watch as the amazing efforts of these future scientists come to light.

Be sure to tune in at 12:30 pm on August 14th to watch the SpaceX-12 liftoff!

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