Front (L-R): Yoland La Pierre (NGC Director), Charise Laveau, Shanade Ali, Chaela Wooding, Jenae Edwards, Shaniah Rudden, Jeanelle Looby (Teacher)
Middle: (L-R) James Mohammed, Ethan Wilson, Nicholas Maharaj, Phillip Janes, Brian Ripoll, Arendel Owen
Back (L-R): Zachary Joel, Daniel Harper, Sebastian Rudden, Conrad Taitt, Brandon Wooding, Deron Khelawan, Ruth Rudden (Teacher)
ST AUGUSTINE, Trinidad -- You wouldn't normally expect to hear a conversation about "ionization in the earth's atmosphere" happening between a group of 12-to 14-year-old youngsters. But that conversation is exactly what led enterprising youth from the Caribbean nation of Trinidad and Tobago to the top prize in the Cubes In Space global contest.
Seven students from NorthGate College, in Trinidad and Tobago, captured the 2014 Cubes In Space MPAC Group Top Design Award, for a science experiment that will be launched into space on June 26.
One member of the team, 13-year-old, Deron Khelawan confidently explained, "The Ionization Investigation seeks to measure the extent to which an electromagnetic field is generated as the payload moves through the ionosphere."
Their creative idea not only impressed their teachers and parents; it impressed a global panel of judges that included some of the finest minds in the aerospace industry.
"The quality of thought and depth of understanding of the science behind their experiment far exceeded most of what was submitted to us by other schools and countries. The NASA engineers to whom we have shown the proposal and video were utterly impressed and astounded that the application was submitted by middle-school-aged students," said Amber Agee-DeHart, founder of the Cubes In Space program.
The Cubes In Space program is a partnership between Rubik Learning Initiative, idoodlesoftwareinc., the Colorado Space Grant Consortium's RockSat-C program and supported by the Sounding Rocket Program Office at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility.
Yolande La Pierre, director at the St Augustine-based secondary school, was elated when she received news of the award. "This achievement is a real testament to the potential that lives within our children. It means a lot for us and for our education system to see their creativity, determination and teamwork rewarded in this way.”
In a male-dominated science world, La Pierre was quick to point that there were six girls in the winning NorthGate team.
One of them, 12-year-old Chaela Wooding said. "Our project was a lot of fun, but we had to quickly learn about space and how it relates to our ordinary classes. It was a lot of hard work for us, but we were able to get it all done in time. Now we're all waiting to see what will happen when our cube actually goes into space."
21st Century Skills
"The goals of the Cubes in Space program are to show students the interconnections between science, technology, engineering, math, arts and communications concepts and to teach students to become analytical and effective thinkers. Throughout the experience, students acquired key 21st century skills necessary for success in a highly connected, global society," said Agee-DeHart.
"The award validated our school's holistic, values-based approach to education", said Dr Noel Woodroffe, chairman and founder of NorthGate College, adding, "We have always nurtured our students to think beyond the curriculum. The Cubes in Space program presented a wonderful opportunity for us to witness this in action as the teamwork, creativity and excellence we strive to instill, were on full display. This is indeed a proud moment for our Northgate College family across the world."
NorthGate is an education initiative of Congress WBN, a global non-profit led by Woodroffe, with operations in over 85 countries. The school, which started in Trinidad in 1999, now has centers in Jamaica, Kenya and Zambia and soon will shape more young minds for the 21st century with new centres in Nigeria and New Zealand.
Team member Zachary Joel, captured this international outlook of the school, saying, "Our teachers always tell us we are global and borderless. With this project I learned we can be borderless inside of a 4cm cube."
Nurturing Young Minds
"Nurturing the young minds of the future with programs like Cubes In Space helps build the business and scientific leaders of tomorrow," said Nicholas Andrews, managing director of The MPAC Group, London, sponsor of the Cubes in Space Top Design Award.
For NorthGate, building global leaders is already a deliberate target, and technology is the enabler. Their students in Trinidad and Tobago regularly use the Internet to connect with other NorthGate counterparts around the globe. Teachers also use technology to allow experts and mentors from around the world to share their experience with eager youngsters.
That comfort with the technology allowed them to interview engineers and physicists from the Caribbean, US and the UK in the process of moving their idea from a concept to an actual experiment. The team saw no limits to what they could accomplish.
"Everyone's idea counted; whether it's something minor like coming up with the name for the experiment, or the design for cube, or tools we could use. But everyone had to be confident with their contribution. We told ourselves even though we are from a small island in the Caribbean, we can make an impact on the world," said 14-year-old team member Sebastian Rudden.
To Infinity and Beyond
And what an impact they are already making. The Northgate College experiment along with the other designs from around the world will be launched into space via sounding rocket from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, VA, on June 26, 2014.
Well before their experiment launches into space, though, the buzz around the achievement of NorthGate will already have been lifted through the stratosphere.