STEM Expo Sends Local Winners to Space: A Closer Look at Cumberland County’s Annual Event

Cumberland County students vie for chance to send science experiments to International Space Station

The 3rd annual STARward STEM Expo took place on Tuesday at Douglas Byrd High School in Fayetteville, with over 200 students representing teams from kindergarten through 12th grade. This year’s event was especially significant as the winning teams will have their science projects sent to the International Space Station as a “science payload.” Maura Richard, a student attending the expo, expressed her excitement about the opportunity to create her own designs and potentially see them sent into space.

Cumberland County STEM Education Director Frank McKay highlighted the importance of promoting education through events like the STEM Expo and emphasized the need to address the needs of communities and the country. The experiments conducted by students can range from simple to complex based on their interests and goals. One of the teams, the Fly Guys, is investigating whether plant seeds can grow in outer space using a mystic tube separated into three sections.

In a previous year, a student experiment explored the effects of perchlorates, a chemical compound found in Martian soil, on aerospace aluminum alloy. Denise Renfro, a teacher in Cumberland County, shared her success with students who discovered the presence of perchlorates in Martian soil after investigating corrosion on the Mars rover’s wheels. These students were among the first to have their experiments sent to the ISS as part of this program. The winners of this year’s STEM Expo will be announced on Tuesday evening.

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