TPHS students part of team of women whose experiment will be tested at International Space Station

Meera Kota (10) and Pooja Bisarya (9)

Two Torrey Pines High School students are part of a team of women, affiliated with Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM), who will be running experiments on board the International Space Station.

Pooja Bisarya, grade 9, and Meera Kota, grade 10, are part of an exceptional group of women who have been working together to make this happen. Their interest in science was cultivated early, and in 7th grade they joined the San Diego Science Alliance, which led to their affiliation with BE WiSE (Better Education for Women in Science and Engineering). As members of BE WiSE, they were invited to apply to be part of this amazing opportunity. The application was long, and asked for examples of experiments they’ve done in the past, as well as examples of the projects they might do if they were chosen as part of the project team. In August, Pooja and Meera were notified of their selection to be part of the team of 15 San Diego County high school girls who would design and carry out an experiment on the International Space Station.

The team started meeting in September and decided on the experiment they would perform and then divided up the jobs needed to accomplish it. The jobs included payload, public relations, communication, documentation, programmer, electrical engineering and mechanical engineering. Meera and Pooja were selected to work on payload. The experiment they chose was “When alum-saturated solutions are sent into space, will the shape and structure of the crystal differ from the control on earth?” Specifically, melting points will be tested, and an electron microscope will be used to compare to the control. For the experiment, different RGB lights (white, red, green, blue, cyan, magenta and yellow) will be programmed to turn on hourly, and a camera will take a picture. Every three days, the pictures will be sent to the team for review and analysis.

The experiment will be going into space in late January/early February with SpaceX on the Dragon 10 spacecraft, an unmanned vehicle, where it will join with the International Space Station. The experiment will run during the month of March, 2013.

Since Pooja wants to be an astrophysicist, she calls her chance to participate in an experiment on the International Space Station “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.” She plans to share her experience with her biology class next spring. Meera enjoys engineering and hopes to get more girls involved in science and engineering. She is currently taking chemistry, and will also share her experience with her class. When asked about this experience, she summed it up saying, “I’m glad I got to send something into space.”

Though both girls are incredibly gifted in science, they participate in a wide variety of other activities on campus. Pooja is involved in Model UN, Academic Team, field hockey, and the STEM Club, while Meera enjoys Mock Trial, dance and volunteering, which she finds very rewarding.