From left, Greely Middle School eighth graders Jonathan LaPlante, Sam Palmlund, Helen Kalinich and Erin Frost were chosen as one of 57 winning teams in NASA’s TechRise Student Challenge. Rachel Vitello / The Forecaster

A team of Greely Middle School students will take a stab at sending a science experiment into space next year.

Eighth graders Helen Kalinich, Sam Palmlund, Erin Frost and Jonathan LaPlante have been selected as one of 57 winning teams out of 600 nationwide in NASA’s TechRise Student Challenge.

Four Greely Middle School students were chosen for a nationwide NASA project that will launch their experiment into space. Rachel Vitello / The Forecaster

The challenge requires students to think of an experiment that can collect data aboard a rocket.

The Greely team, opting for a medical mission, is designing an experiment, dubbed “Stab Science,” to simulate what happens when someone is injured in space.

They plan to insert a sharp object into a model of an arm that will contain simulated blood. The arm will be sealed in a clear 4-by-4-by-8-inch box with a camera and put aboard the rocket.  The camera will allow the students to watch what transpires during the three minutes the rocket stays in space before returning to Earth.  They’ll  track the progression of the injury without gravity and then figure out how it could be handled.

“We’re also going to try to simulate the heart pumping the blood out of the body as well. We’re trying to do as much as possible to simulate the human body and replicate that process,” said Palmlund of the experiment.


Each winning group receives $1,500 for project materials to be purchased with the guidance of a NASA mentor and their supervising teacher. It’s too early in the process to know what kind of materials the Stab Science experiment will use, the students said.

Other winning proposals submitted for the NASA challenge, hosted by the Future Engineers organization, include measuring greenhouse gases, space farm irrigation systems and lunar dust mitigation, according to a NASA press release.

The Greely Middle School team meets weekly and hopes to finish the project by the end of the school year. They get help from their teacher Robin Tiller and will have access to technical support from Future Engineers experts during the build period.

The rocket will be launched in early 2023, but the launch site hasn’t been set yet.

The teammates said they are happy to have this experience to put on future job and college applications.

Frost said she was excited to learn more about engineering, and Kalinich said a career in science is something she’s thought about.


“There’s not a lot of people that get to do this. I feel really lucky that out of the people who entered, we were chosen,” Kalinich said. “At such a young age I feel like you don’t get recognized for the work you do. To be recognized by an organization so big, and since I’ve always been interested in space, is really cool to me.”

If anything, Greely Middle School Principal Mar-E Trebilcock is even more excited than the students.

“Before I became a principal, I taught math and science here. As a science educator, I get so excited when students embrace opportunities to engage in inquiry,”  Trebilcock said.

“All of our eighth grade students submitted projects and so I’m proud of all of them for engaging in a process of writing a proposal and submitting it formally,” she said. “That’s a big deal in and of itself.”

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