In its first year, a CA club for student inventors reached new heights — literally. The scientific experiments proposed by Spark co-head James Gow ’20, with the support of his fellow co-head Connor Dayton ’20, earned coveted spots aboard a NASA sounding rocket and zero-pressure research balloon through the Cubes in Space program, a global competition for students aged 11 to 18 to design and propose experiments to send into space or a near-space environment.
Cubes in Space received thousands of entries from more than 30 countries. Only 60 experiments were selected to fly in NASA’s Terrier-Improved Orion Rocket, which launched in June from the Wallops Flight Facility in Chincoteague, Va. James and Connor traveled there, meeting NASA engineers, and teachers and students and their families from as far away as Brazil and Ecuador. “It was a truly international conference for the students,” James says.
At the Student Exhibit Expo at Wallops, participants presented their experiments before more than 350 students, teachers, and NASA officials. Setting out to discover whether exposure to radiation and microgravity affects seed germination and growth, James and Connor then watched the rocket carrying their seeds from green beans, red beans, and corn blaze into space.
James collected data from that experiment over the summer and has been analyzing it this fall. His preliminary observations suggest that the exposure to space radiation stimulates seed germination. The seeds sent into space germinated faster than control seeds on Earth — one corn seed even germinated after just one day. However, exposer to space radiation has also stunted the growth of the seeds used in the experiment; some wilted without apparent cause. James will continue to closely analyze the data that Spark collected.
The second experiment that Spark conducted through the Cubes in Space program hypothesized that data on USB drives exposed to radiation and microgravity would not be distorted when kept in solid-state storage. After more than a month of waiting for favorable launch conditions, the research balloon — an impressive vehicle as large as a football stadium and as tall as the Washington Monument when fully inflated — launched on September 23 from NASA’s Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility in Fort Sumner, N.M. Aboard the balloon, which rose as high as 125,235 feet, was Spark’s experiment, along with 99 other experiments from Cubes in Space. James and Connor are involving current members of Spark, and recruiting new ones, to help analyze the data from the research balloon.
This Wednesday, September 25, at 4 p.m. in the Upper Stu-Fac classroom, Spark will host the first presentation in a SparkTalk speaker series. Officials from the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) Dominic Keating, USPTO director, and Jesus Hernandez, a patent attorney, will present a Patents 101 webinar.
In addition to the Cubes in Space program, during the 2018–19 academic year, Spark club members took part in the Google Science Fair, Toshiba/NSTA ExploraVision Science Competition, and the Massachusetts State Science Fair. James and Connor describe the club’s mission and goals thus: “Stay curious; be innovative! Solve the world’s problems, one invention at a time.”
CA Celebrates Black History Month with Assembly Focused on Civil and Human Rights, Past, Present, and Future
On February 24, Concord Academy welcomed representatives from the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights to speak with students about their work advocating and organizing for democracy, justice, inclusion, and opportunity for all people in the United States. The event took place thanks to the coordinated efforts of 9th grade class student leaders, who modeled coalition building in initiating this all-school assembly, coordinating with affinity groups and the Community and Equity Office to create and host this opportunity for school-wide learning and reflection. Affinity groups have also been engaging the CA community in Black History Month initiatives throughout the month.
Each year, Concord Academy celebrates Martin Luther King Jr. Day with a day of engagement rather than a day off. This year, CA honored Dr. King’s legacy in new ways. The program, held on January 27, featured not one guest but seven, and the format was, for the first time, virtual. The day’s theme, “Infinite Hope Imagining Black Futures,” took inspiration from a line from a 1968 address of Dr. King’s: “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.” A panel discussion, several workshops — including one by CA alumna Daysha Veronica ’10 — and a Q&A and keynote reading by celebrated poet Danez Smith asked the CA community to focus through a specific lens: imagining what a liberated future that uplifts and centers Black people, communities, and culture looks like.
CA Environmental Symposium Features Audrey Lin ’19, an Alumna Fighting the Climate Crisis with the Sunrise Movement
Advocacy was the topic of this year’s Environmental Symposium, a one-semester evening course open to all Concord Academy Students. On January 14, the speaker in the final lecture in the three-part series was Audrey Lin ’19, who walked students through the advocacy approach of the Sunrise Movement, organized by young people to stop climate change and create millions of good-paying jobs in the process.