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Craft Academy Students conduct research in conjunction with International Space Station

ExoLab control group at space science centerStudents and recent graduates of the Craft Academy for Excellence in Science and Mathematics recently presented the findings of research they did in conjunction with the International Space Station (ISS).  

The ExoLab-8 research project aims to study the effects of microgravity on the nitrogen-fixation process and the symbiotic relationship between Rhizobia bacteria and red clover. While Magnitude, the project's parent company, sent red clover in experiment modules to the International Space Station, the students from the Craft Academy maintained a control group in MSU's Space Science Center.  

The following seniors participated in the research:   
  • Fredre'Oni Terrado, Elizabethtown  
  • Cayenne Warren, Pendelton County  
  • Gabby Music, Lawrence County  
  • Olivia Moore, Lexington  
  • Elizabeth Oakes, Clark County  
  • Roxanne Lockard, Georgetown  
Four recent graduates, Allie Lewis of Morehead, Jai Joshi of Frankfort, Maiqi Qin of Salt Lick, and Grace Stubblefield of Ashland, also participated in the research project.  

The Craft Academy senior team presented virtually at the International Space Station Research and Development Conference on Aug. 17, 2021. Over the summer, Craft students collaborated on a twenty-minute presentation detailing the experiment and how it impacted their STEM education experiences (the topic presented for the conference). Student researchers also produced a five-minute executive brief summarizing the work and presented it virtually to an audience of scientific professionals.  

"As this research project and presentation took place while I was working virtually due to the COVID pandemic, the students demonstrated the ability to critically think and work with more independence compared to most students I have mentored. Therefore, their communication skills also had to develop very quickly. They also developed teamwork and collaborative skills as they had to set up and conduct their experiment with me being remote," said Dr. Michael Fultz, professor of biology, who mentored the students throughout the project. "The most rewarding aspect of mentoring student research is observing a student's scientific curiosity and excitement for a project. In addition, it is rewarding as a mentor when you get to see your students finish a project and present their results at a scientific conference. We share in our students' accomplishments and hopefully inspire them in their future pursuits."  

In addition to Fultz, the students were also mentored by Craft Academy QEP Director Rachel Rogers and Jennifer Carter, assistant director of academic services. By the end of the experiment, students gained scientific knowledge and lifelong skills for future STEM careers, such as practical problem-solving, communication, and collaboration skills.  

"I truly learned that research is not a field that should be gatekept by age," said Lockard. "We presented amongst professionals, adults with degrees and years of experience. Yet, our research was every bit as good, our answers every inch as insightful as theirs. It was so thrilling to be held to the same high standards as them and not have our age dock our credibility. I think we were even asked the most questions overall by the panelists."   

"Our research is far from over. We are working on recruiting new students already to carry our torches, test tubes, and Excel spreadsheets of growth data. Our goal from this research is a continuous one, and we are so excited to pass this knowledge on."  

Moore said she’s excited to see the end results of the experiment, which will wrap up this semester.

“I enjoyed data observation. Our group of ten divided into five groups of two to daily check on the growth of the plant and the environment it was growing in. We measured qualities like the amount of light in the ExoLab module, the carbon dioxide levels, the temperature, and the humidity to make sure that the environment was relatively constant to maintain a strong control group,” she said. “Additionally, we measured the height of the clover to compare their growth throughout the semester. While I enjoyed seeing the plants grow, the most enjoyable part of this process has yet to happen- comparing our data to the data from the experiment group on the ISS.”

The Craft Academy for Excellence in Science and Mathematics is a dual-credit academy for academically exceptional Kentucky students. Craft Academy provides students with a postsecondary residential experience to complete their junior and senior years of high school by enrolling in college courses. The Craft Academy's purpose is to meet the unique educational needs of academically gifted and talented high school juniors and seniors in the Commonwealth. The academic rigor of the Craft Academy challenges students to excel at their highest level through project-based STEM+X courses and hands-on learning experiences, with emphasis on innovation, design and creativity, and civic and regional engagement.  

For more information, visit, email or call 606-783-2093.