Payload Blog

KOOL STEM Stuff at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex

Authentic STEM is at the heart of everything we do at Kennedy Online Outreach and Learning (KOOL). Our goal is not simply to give students a lot of science facts, but to help them learn to think like scientists. The key to this is engaging their natural curiosity and teaching them to ask good questions, make educated guesses, and then conduct repeated tests of their guesses to see if they were right. We’ve been doing a lot of that here in the KOOL lab. Our latest project is a collaboration with the scientists who work on NASA’s Veggie project. This team is trying out a wide variety of ideas for growing plants in space and on other planets.

Starting in the fall of 2017, teachers will be able to bring their classes to the new Mars Base 1 at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex for an immersive day of Mars-based, hands-on STEM challenges that will enhance their regular curriculum. One of these allows visitors to take part in Project Veggie by getting their hands dirty in our state-of-the-art plant lab and greenhouse, where they will plant, harvest, and care for a wide variety of plants using indoor farming methods such as aeroponics and colored LED lighting treatments.

We’ve been running preliminary experiments to help choose the ones students will find most interesting. For example, have you ever wondered what would happen if you grew vegetables in transparent containers? Can indoor lighting produce better crops than natural sunlight? What materials make the best replacement for soil? Do different nutrients affect the flavor of vegetables? The possibilities are endless! Send your questions and experiment ideas to Maybe your experiment will make it to Mars Base 1!