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Students' project to be tested by NASA

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High school students at Milton Hershey are creating a name for themselves in the science field.

The students are as personable as they are intelligent. Their excitement for learning is what teachers strive for.

Seniors Aliza Blackburn and Hunter Shippee began by creating their own oil-based paint.

"We're going to put down the pigment, which is the lapis lazuli, a ground up gem," explained Shippee, as he laid out the mixture. "Next we're going to put the sun thickened linseed oil down."

They believe this combination will create an oil paint that can be used well above the earth's surface, a place known as outer space.

"It started off as a class project in astronomy," Blackburn said. "We had to choose some sort of experiment of thing to test up in microgravity, or in space."

The two brains tested various materials before getting to their final creation.

"We would come in on Sundays from 1-4. We would be here from 3-5 after school every single day," said Shippee.

Their dedication eventually paid off.

Just weeks ago, they learned their experiment will be tested in micro gravity. NASA astronauts will test their paint aboard the International Space Station.

It's part of the National Student Spaceflights Experiments program. Milton Hershey School was selected to participate in the program this year.

"Once we knew that our school was selected, we then tried to figure out how can we make this a whole campus event and include all of our students and give a lot of our students this experience and this opportunity," said Brett Stark, Milton Hershey School Associate Senior Director of Curriculum and Instruction.

The school then offered teachers the chance to offer the project as part of class. If a teacher wasn't doing it as a project, students could also sign up if for it if they were interested.

In the end the school selected about six of 40 projects to put forward to the NASA review board.

That's when Shippee and Blackburn learned they were one of two groups from the school that was selected.

"It's so amazing to think that wow. We are actually going to send this experiment up to space. It's crazy. It's amazing,'" explained Shippee, jumping out of his seat with excitement.

The students also designed a test tube, as part of their experiment, that will test the paint on three different materials to see which works best.

When they send it to NASA to be tested in space this spring, they will give the astronauts instructions.

"I love art and I understand the importance of it and how it really helps people. And then to think up in space what kind of stresses and add ons that would bring and how nice it would be to be able to relax and do something creative," Blackburn explained.

She said she was happy to be able to mix her love of art with a project of this nature.

When the project comes back to earth, it will come back to the classroom where they will further dive into which material held the paint best.

The other two students NASA chose are even younger than Shippee and Blackburn.

Logan Ford and Christian James are sophomores and freshmen. Their project was testing the effects of micro gravity on the growth of algae cysts and lipid production.

Once the tests are complete in space, students will also get to present their projects and findings at the SSEP national conference in the summer.

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