Flag of TexasThe Texas State legislature honored Willis Independent School District and their student microgravity researchers on February 28, 2013, for their participation in SSEP Mission 3 to the International Space Station. State Representative Brandon Creighton is addressing the legislature in the video below, which was made available by Willis ISD.

Read about Willis Texas involvement in Mission 3 to ISS

Read about their Selected Flight Experiment, and Honorable Mention Experiments



Reprinted below is an article from the Courier of Montgomery County (read original article online)

Willis students earn Capitol praise for microgravity space experiment
By Harrison Thomas
Contributing writer | Posted: Thursday, February 28, 2013 10:20 pm

AUSTIN – It was a momentous day for the Willis Independent School District as six students were honored for their success in the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program and the Parmley Performers school choir sang in the Rotunda at the heart of the state Capitol.

“Accomplishing so much at their age shows so much promise,” state Rep. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe, said. “Our investment in them will pay great dividends.”

Students Daniel Perez, Kalysta Gutierrez, Leiloni Zachary, Safira Reyes, Selma Nieniel and Danielle Pierce were honored in the Capitol building after their experiment proposal “Germination of a Cabbage Seed” was chosen by the SSEP to be implemented on the International Space Station. The experiment, which was designed to measure germination and growth of the vegetable in microgravity, was one of 17 nationwide that was selected to be done in a microlaboratory on the ISS, and the only proposal accepted from Texas.

“We want to continue our students’ learning in the field of math and science,” said Leslie Holtkamp, Ph.D., chief of School Choice Initiatives for WISD. “[The program] makes the students start thinking about how the world is much bigger than their community.”

The SSEP is designed to combine different academic fields and inspire competition to give students a taste of what the modern scientific world is like. Communities compete nationwide to have their scientific proposals make it past three rounds of judging, with the finalists actually earning the privilege to have their experiments performed in orbit. According to the SSEP website, the purpose of the program is to prepare students for the modern scientific world.

“We brought in scientists who shared lunar samples, space food and meteorites for the students,” Holtkamp said.

In addition to the program, the students received a high degree of interaction with scientists to supplement their projects. Each school was permitted one question to ask a member of the ISS. Student Keely Wilson, from Parmley Elementary, asked astronaut Suni Williams over video chat what they would do if there were a serious major medical emergency on board.

“I was really excited, but scared at the same time,” Wilson said.

“Only one of the students in the Spaceflight program is not a choir member,” Parmley Principal Janie Wiggins said. “The program is offered to fifth-graders the same year the choir program is, thus the crossover.”

After the students were honored by Creighton on the House floor, the Parmley Performers were ushered into the Rotunda to sing patriotic songs. Latrelle Lindon, a retired Willis ISD employee and prolific songwriter, aided the choir in singing one of her original works, titled “Citizenship.”

“[‘Citizenship’] was our favorite song that [Lindon] showed us,” Wiggins said. “We thought it would be appropriate for the Capitol.”

A crowd gathered around the children and Lindon as they sang staples such as “God Bless America” and pop songs such as “Firework” by Katy Perry.

A competition was held to design patches to go up with the experiment on ISS Mission 3. Parmley student Akira Garden won the best patch design for the district, and her work will accompany the microlab, projected to go up to the ISS in May.

“This was an incredible opportunity,” Holtkamp said. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for these students.”


The Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP) is a program of the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education (NCESSE) in the U.S., and the Arthur C. Clarke Institute for Space Education internationally. It is enabled through a strategic partnership with NanoRacks LLC, working with NASA under a Space Act Agreement as part of the utilization of the International Space Station as a National Laboratory. SSEP is the first pre-college STEM education program that is both a U.S. national initiative and implemented as an on-orbit commercial space venture.  The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) and Subaru of America are National Partners on the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program.

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