Damien High students at Cape Canaveral

A team of students from Damien High attend the July 25 launch from Cape Canaveral in Florida of their science experiment aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket to the International Space Station.  Team members Dylan McKenzie (right) of Chino Hills, Anthony Ebiner, Curtis Lin and Kotoi Wu created the experiment and Byran Gavin designed the mission patch.

In literal terms, a student team from Damien High School in La Verne created a science experiment that’s out of this world. 

Among the team members is Dylan McKenzie of Chino Hills.

The experiment, to test  growth patterns of Enoki mushrooms, was chosen  along with 37 other experiments for Mission 13 on the International Space Station as part of a study on the effects of microgravity on organisms.  

The experiments launched July 25 and are expected to return to Earth four to six weeks later. 

 The Damien team, also comprised of Anthony Ebiner, Curtis Lin and Kotoi Wu, will evaluate microgravity effects on the mushrooms that return from the space station compared  with the same experiment conducted on Earth. 

Next summer, the students' experiments and findings will be presented at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.    

Dylan said he was inspired to work with fungi after watching a YouTube video titled “Do Plants Think?” 

It showed how plants can sense their environment and orient themselves to their environment.   

The team worked three months to produce a five-page research proposal titled “Flammulina velutipes growth in microgravity.” 

The proposal states that mushrooms require little light, and according to two scientists’ theories, they can also detect and respond to gravity. 

Damien High participates in the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program through the non-profit National Center for Earth and Space Science Education in partnership with NASA. Funding is through school alumni and the California Space Grant. 

Three projects were selected from Damien High to the NASA research board, which chose the winner.  

The research board then gave guidance for the experiment.       

A July 25 news release from NASA titled “SpaceX Dragon en Route to Space Station with NASA Science, Cargo” states that the microgravity experiments could yield information that aids in engineering other plants to grow better on the Moon and Mars, as well as on Earth; lead to new technologies, medical treatments and products that improve life on Earth; and help NASA learn how to keep astronauts healthy during long-duration space travel.   

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