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Astrobiology-Scientific Ballooning

Video from WABI Channel 5 Maine

This highly collaborative project has been seeking to increase student aspirations for STEM careers by enhancing high school STEM curricula with instructions and hands-on field experience and classroom laboratory-based research that combine a scientific focus on astrobiology with planning and execution of high altitude ballooning missions that necessarily engage further elements of technology, engineering, and mathematics and require extensive teamwork of students, teachers, and university and NASA partners. The efforts of the project are expected to engage students in authentic research experiences integrated with the engineering design challenges of a scientific mission leading to refinement and demonstration of a replicable, scalable, and sustainable career development model benefiting both students and their teachers.

The primary roles of the USM astrobiology group and the team of three Maine ScienceCorps Astrobiology Graduate Fellows are to provide astrobiology professional development particularly during an astrobiology summer institute and throughout the project to partner with teachers and their students in authentic astrobiology experiments that can be done in high school classrooms and also be adapted and compared to similar experiments performed using the high altitude experiment platform provided in the form of scientific ballooning missions. The Maine ScienceCorps was funded for a decade by the NSF Graduate Teaching Fellows in K-12 Education Program and partnered graduate bioscience students from USM with high school science teachers to support authentic classroom laboratory and research experiences studying molecular biology, biodiversity, microbiology, virology, and immunology as has been reported ( This model of classroom research partnership applies readily in the context of the current Astrobiology-Scientific Ballooning project through work complementary and ultimately integrated with the work of the larger interdisciplinary project team involving several other institutions including the University of Maine and Maine Maritime Academy. The support that the USM astrobiologists, the Maine ScienceCorps, and NASA colleagues provide in astrobiology is matched also by scientific ballooning support of NASA colleagues and statewide participants in the project called Maine Student High Altitude Program (MeSHAP). During year one the project has been successfully initiated in three high schools and the team efforts have proceeded to become a coordinated and integrated effort to support high school astrobiology research and scientific ballooning experiences.

To read more about the Astrobiology-Scientific Ballooning program please click the following document links.

icon Astrobiology-Scientific Ballooning Report

icon Student Experiment Summary


Additional information