When Mission 6 was announced at PSA in February of 2014, Joe was in a little bit of a pickle. As the only Tin Whiskie left at the school since Gabe attended Bishop England for his freshman year, and as a freshman taking rigorous courses, Joe was faced with a lot of work and revisions that he simply would not have enough time to complete. Sending something to space is pretty hard to do by yourself.
Joe approached me about joining the Tin Whiskies, and I would have been a fool to say no. So I didn’t, and immediately I started researching all about tin whiskers and hit the ground running with the experiment.
We researched, improved, and submitted the proposal again. The National Center for Earth and Space Science Education (NCESSE) had some great suggestions for improvement from Mission 4 that were incredibly helpful and then we were on our way.
One of the biggest changes in this proposal between Mission 4 and Mission 6 was the change in the variable. During Mission 4, we tested the effect of microgravity on tin whisker formation. The Step 2 Review Board pointed out that the tin whiskers may detach during re-entry and that the variable could not be isolated in this instance. That got us thinking.
For Mission 6, we changed our variable to spaceflight. Rather than just testing the sensation of weightlessness experienced on the International Space Station, we would examine the effect of the entire flight-- shipping, loading, launch, microgravity, and re-entry-- rather than just microgravity.
Some other students at our school had a similar idea of changing the variable. Kayla Capitan and McKoy Floyd, ninth and eighth graders, respectively, submitted a proposal that would eventually win second place testing the effect of cosmic radiation rather than microgravity in their experiment on Hytrel Polymers and ABS Materials. Up until that point, no one had ever thought of testing cosmic radiation in SSEP. It was part of what made them very strong competitors.
There were quite a few other strong proposals that year, so the competition was pretty fierce. One group of 6th graders worked with a Citadel professor on microgravity and fern growth that made it to the top ten. A pair of ninth graders had a fascinating proposal on hydrogen storage in carbon nanotubes that made it to the finals. In the end, however, ours was selected for spaceflight. Second time’s the charm!