Discovering New Orbits with Kids in Micro-g

Even simple scientific experiments can yield amazing results and add to the collective knowledge of the research community. Take the winning proposal for the most recent round of the Kids in Micro-g competition, for example, which was designed by two 5th grade girls from Chabad Hebrew Academy in San Diego. Conducted in April 2011 on the International Space Station, this study, called "Attracting Water Drops," looked at static attraction in microgravity to reveal an exciting new understanding of physics in space.

Kids in Micro-g was a hands-on design challenge and part of NASA's Teaching from Space education program. Six finalists were selected in the 2011 Kids in Micro-g competition, earning the chance to have their proposed studies performed on the space station.

The Attracting Water Drops experiment involved rubbing a piece of rubber tubing with a pair of nylon shorts to create a static charge. Then astronauts released a droplet of water close by and watched to see what happened.

Marilyn Sniffen, advanced placement science coordinator with Chabad Hebrew Academy, found out about the Kids in Micro-g competition while researching new challenges for her students online. Having previously participated with her classes in other NASA education challenges, she was aware of NASA as a resource to help foster a love of science in students.

"I asked my current students if they would like to participate," said Sniffen. "There was no hesitation, as they immediately wanted to check out the list of supplies available for the physics tests that could be done aboard the space station."

Students did their own companion study in the classroom to gain results for the investigation under the force of gravity here on Earth. They observed that a piece of charged rubber tubing held near a stream of running water caused the flow of water to bend toward the tubing. Students learned that the action of rubbing the tubing with nylon transferred negatively charged electrons to the tubing, creating a negative static charge.

Since opposite charges attract to each other, and water molecules have a polarity with a positive end, the negatively charged tubing held near the water caused the positive end of the water to draw towards the tubing.

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