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Six Sault students going to Florida to watch rocket launch

Students won the Higher Orbits summer camp grand prize and will go to Cape Canaveral to watch their project take off to the International Space Station

Six students from Sault Area Public Schools are going to Florida next week, but not for Spring Break.

They are going to watch a rocket launch at Cape Canaveral that will bring their prize-winning project to the International Space Station (ISS).

They entered into the 2022 Higher Orbits summer camp and found out they won the grand prize in March 2023.

At that camp, then-freshmen Cierra Aikens, Zahraa Mahmud, Taylor Meilstrup, and Evelyn Weber, along with seventh-graders Siri Olson and Claire Parks competed in the three-day event at Lake Superior State University against schools across Michigan.

The six girls all came together and designed the winning project that is rather complex and interesting.

"We have cellular respiration yeast that mimics real animal cells so that we don't have to send real animals in space but we can still measure the development in space. It's really awesome," Olson explained.

It took all of them to work together to achieve their goal.

"We all kinda knew each other at the summer camp. We all congregated as one when told to make a group and then we just went on from there," Parks said.

"It was kind of exciting to meet all these guys because I did not know them in the beginning, but then we got to know each other. We won and now we are going to Florida.It's been really positive to me. It is nice to have the support of my team, community and family behind it," Aikens said.

"We worked together well and we all threw ideas out there and all did individual research and put it all together. We all came together to win this experiment," Meilstrup said.

It's been just about a couple years from the start of their adventure and now reality is sinking in.

"When we won the space camp itself, and then we went on to compete with everyone in Michigan, and then after the announcement we won that one, that is when it set in that we are going to Florida," Parks said.

"The best part of this whole thing is knowing that our experiment has won against all the others and that it will be going up in space," Mahmud said.

Liftoff of the SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft on the company’s Falcon 9 rocket is expected to be March 21 at 3:50 p.m. at Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.

The SpaceX’s Dragon will deliver new science investigations – including Space Shell 6's experiment, food, supplies, and equipment – to the international crew. 

"It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for us that Higher Orbits came to the Soo and gave us a chance to really do something," said Mahmud.

"Going to Florida is just mind-blowing that we put this together. We are from a small town and we get to go down to Cape Canaveral and see a spaceship launch. I think it is totally awesome," Weber said.

Chris Olson, president of the Chippewa County Economic Development Corporation and father of Siri, says it doesn't end when the girls come back from Florida.

"In partnership with the Intermediate School District we will be holding our second Go For Launch event at Lake Superior State University in late July of 2024. It’s only because of the great community and businesses financial support that we can bring this great STEM opportunity to the region," Olson explained.

You can watch the launch live at either one of these two links: