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Santa Monica student projects headed to space

Students in Santa Monica are sending their school work to an unusual location — space.

Officials at the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District announced Wednesday that two students' winning mission patch designs will be taken on an upcoming journey to the International Space Station.

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A team of eighth-graders from Lincoln Middle School also landed top prizes: they designed an experiment to test the way that liquid separates without gravity. Their experiment will be conducted by an astronaut at the International Space Station.

More than 20,000 students from around the country participated in the competition known as The Student Spaceflight Experiments Program.

"It’s a great way to capture their imagination," said Santa Monica science teacher Marianna O’Brien, who helped organize the contest overseen by the nonprofit National Center for Earth and Space Science Education in partnership with the commercial space company NanoRacks. 

The Santa Monica winners are fourth-grader Tatum Meyer of Grant Elementary School and eighth-grader Alisa Boardman of Lincoln Middle School. Tatum and Alisa won for their patch designs.

At Lincoln Middle School, eighth-graders Samuel Buckley-Bonanno, Shrayes Raman, Charlie Gooding and Adam Chamas won the flight experiment competition.

This is the second time the district has participated in space missions. The national program first sent student work aboard Endeavor's last flight in May 2011. Today's missions are being carried out by commercial flights.

“We are using this commercial access to build a high-caliber, national STEM education program around this to inspire and engage the next generation of scientists and engineers," said Jeff Goldstein, the program's director.

Students from La Verne and Petaluma also won top prizes. The projects are scheduled for launch into space in June by an unmanned rocket.

Schools interested in participating in future competitions can get more information online. For many districts, the price may be a barrier — the baseline cost is listed as $23,000, though some funding assistance is provided.