Savannah-Chatham County Public School System

SCELA Student Astronaut Team Wins National Championship in Lab Design at the 2021 National Student Astronaut Competition

Published on: 3/30/2021

“Failure is not an option," is the astronaut motto the Savannah-Chatham E-Learning Academy student astronaut team has followed this school year.  Last October, in Savannah Chatham E-Learning Academy's first year, the Student Astronaut Club (SCELAnauts) qualified for the Student Astronaut Challenge Finals, typically hosted at NASA in Cape Canaveral.  This year, due to COVID and the virtual setting, the team planned to compete in the following Challenges:  Lab/Design Challenge, Engineering Challenge and Patch Challenge.  They competed for almost three weeks in February from first to last Challenge. 

Earlier this month, a virtual award ceremony was held where it was announced that the team placed FIRST and are National Champions in the Lab/Design Challenge.  “The Design Challenge is a physical design challenge to solve a specific space-related issue," says Team Sponsor Teacher Carolyn Rethwisch.  “Teams submit a typed research/design proposal several weeks before the Finals competition and present their solution, including a prototype model to the judges."  This year, the SCELA team had to come up with a design to help mitigate the effects of microgravity in the ISS (or long space missions) on astronauts' lungs in space. 

Two team members reached out to Dr. Joan Nichols, a Professor of Internal Medicine, and Microbiology/Immunology, as well as the Associate Director for the Galveston National Laboratory at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, Texas.  Dr. Nichols worked with NASA on her “Lungs In Space" project and agreed to be interviewed by the team through ZOOM about her work, research and results.  The team worked together to complete their research and turned in their paper, “Using Surfactant Inhalers to Mitigate the Impact of Microgravity on Astronaut Lungs" on January 20th.  They completed a comprehensive PowerPoint presentation and recorded their research findings for the judges. 

The SCELA team also competed in the Patch and Engineering Challenges – finishing 5th and 6th in those competitions.  The following SCELAnauts made up the final competition team specifically for the Lab/Design Challenge:  J'Kaalah Cole, Isabella Frazier, Chy'Andrea Jenkins, Jordan Louder, Janice Miranda, Simone Hicks  (alternates: Ava Jarvis, Kaeleb Wilcox, ).   The team was  coached by SCELA 8th Grade Science Teacher Carolyn Rethwisch and Dr. Barbara Serianni, an Associate Professor at Georgia Southern University;  Assistant Coaches are – Jacqueline Scanlan, Jessica Tatro, Arlethia Brown-Hall, Patricia Adams, Rachel Wells, and Chelsea Zimmerman. 

Congratulations to all!


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