Youth Space Institute Launches Experiment to Int’l Space Station

An update to this ISS supply launch and the status of SDSA’s Youth Space Institute experiment can be found here.


[Original post:]  Exciting news from the San Diego Science Alliance!

Youth Space Institute experiment launches Sunday to International Space Station

All girl team from San Diego designed liquid column to produce silicon in zero gravity


For immediate release

Press Release (PDF)


(San Diego, Calif. – June 26, 2015)  Early Sunday morning when the NASA Resupply Mission to the International Space Station (ISS) launches in Cape Canaveral, Fla, three San Diego high school girls will be there to watch as their team’s experiment is carried into orbit. Back home that evening, the rest of the 15 all-girl team will share in all the details via Skype from a team member’s home in Poway. The project is led by the Youth Space Institute, a program of the San Diego Science Alliance (SDSA).


The young ladies, selected from a pool of applicants in grades 9-12, were tasked to design an experiment for zero gravity. Their experiment could be no larger than the tube of a toilet paper roll, and would be deployed to the ISS.


The team met weekly throughout the school year with mentors from the aerospace industry and educational institutions at Calit2 at UCSD. The team designed an experiment to investigate the behavior of liquid bridges (a.k.a. liquid columns) and how they will react to mechanical stimulation in microgravity. Specifically, a MicroLab was built to study the effects of rotation on the shape and motion of particles in the liquid columns.


During the design and build, the team kept an engineering log and everyone had a unique job. The experiment required materials such as ball bearings, lead screws, syringes, and 3D printed parts. The STEAM Maker Workshop donated use of the 3-D printer and additional lab space. Other community partners include Realcomm and General Atomics.


Piper Langer-Weida who will be a junior this fall at Poway High was a team member. She said, “The most difficult part was getting everything to fit into something the size of a toilet paper roll, but when we did it was like puzzle pieces that just fell into place. We felt like Thomas Edison; we just kept trying and trying. And it was satisfying to learn how to work together as a team and communicate.”


NanoRacks, Inc. has now deployed the experiment to the ISS payload aboard the Space X CRS-7 for launch on Sunday (June 28). Team members have programmed the Micro-Lab to operate once the astronauts plug it in. Later, the MicroLab will be returned to Earth and mailed to the team to observe the results.


The launch of the SpaceX Dragon cargo craft is schedule for Sunday at 7:21 a.m. PDT (10:21 a.m. EDT).  Updates to the schedule are available at


Nancy Taylor, one of the Youth Space Institute mentors said, “The idea for the experiment came from the projected need to manufacture silicon chips on Mars.”  The poster developed by the team states that the float zone method produces large, high purity crystals that are crucial for manufacturing high quality semiconductors. Float zone silicon is used extensively in power devices and detector applications.


The girls attend the following high schools: Cathedral Catholic HS, Julian Charter, La Costa Canyon HS, La Jolla HS, Patrick Henry HS, Poway HS, Rancho Buena Vista HS, River Valley Charter HS, River Valley Charter HS, San Diego International HS, San Marcos HS, San Ysidro HS, Starlight Academy, The Bishops School, Torrey Pines HS, and Valhalla HS.


The Youth Space Institute evolved from SDSA’s BE WiSE program for girls in STEM. BE WiSE engages young women in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) learning experiences in collaboration with the region’s research, industry and academic institutions.  For more information about SDSA, please visit, email, or call (619) 400-9777.




Media contact: Ellen Peneski, 619.325.9119 or


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