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Schuylkill Honors STEM program takes off

A group of honors STEM students from Schuylkill County is sending their science experiments to space.

SCHUYLKILL HAVEN, Pa. — Instead of taking their year-long projects home, these honors science, technology, engineering, and math students from Blue Mountain High School are shipping their experiments to space.

“The goal of our project was to test the strength of certain plastics under extreme conditions. So we decided we're going to send three different plastics on a rocket because the rocket has a lot of different forces,” explained Jackson Lecklitner, a sophomore. “We're going to see if the plastics can survive those forces and if they do, that could impact future rocket development and future prototype rockets.”

The honor STEM students will be able to take their experiments to a different level thanks to their partnership with Cubes in Space, a program that provides students access to space to design and test experiments on upcoming NASA missions.

“This is an international project, so I think they take 200 projects onboard the two different flights internationally, and we got three spots,” said environmental and STEM teacher Randy Metzger.

The students spent months handcrafting cubes using computer programs and 3-D printing.

“It's definitely important, I mean, we're doing research that not a lot of people don't get a chance to do, especially in high school,” said Ronald Herpst, a sophomore. “It’s overall an exciting feeling knowing we’re sending a cube to space, something we came up with and designed.”

Metzger says the students are far from being done with their experiments and will be watching their projects take off in late June.

“One of ours is going on a rocket that's gonna fly to Wallops Island in Virginia, and the other two are going to be on a high-altitude balloon,” added Metzger. 

Metzger and his STEM students at Blue Mountain expect to get their cubes back over the summer so they can see how the experiments fared in space. 

Then they'll continue research in the new school year. 

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