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Tiny Kauai school’s sugar cane experiment is headed to the International Space Station

“The experiment is we’re sending sugar cane rootlets up to space and seeing if they will grow taller.”
Published: Jan. 6, 2022 at 4:26 PM HST|Updated: Jan. 6, 2022 at 4:45 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Later this year, the International Space Station will receive a shipment of sugar cane stock for an experiment.

The payload is coming from a charter school on the south side of Kauai.

“The experiment is we’re sending sugar cane rootlets up to space and seeing if they will grow taller,” said Hudson Sherrill.

He’s one of three fourth-grade students from Alakai O Kauai Charter School in Koloa who submitted a video to NASA’s Dream Up to Space contest pitching their idea.

Lo and behold, the tiny school won.

“There’s been lots of experiments that have gone up on the International Space Station. This one speaks specifically to our islands,” school Director David Adams said.

The kids go by the name Team Ko ― the Hawaiian word for sugar cane. Guided by their teacher, they came up with the idea for an experiment on the space station.

“We decided sugar cane because we knew that it was a relative of bamboo, and we knew that bamboo is a fast-growing plant,” Team Ko member Omar Maes said.

The NASA selection is a big win for the entire school and its focus on project-based activities.

“That project-based learning activities is exactly how we ended up with this Dream Up to Space,” Adams said.

The students studied the space station before they submitted their entry. Now they’re adding more team members to finish the work.

“I think it’s really, really cool and exciting, and it’s a new opportunity to bring everyone and new people to the school,” Persais Sasil said.

To top it off, scientists aboard the International Space Station sent the school a Tweet saying they’re really excited about working on the sugar cane experiment when it arrives in outer space in May.

“What we’re hoping is that we can send not only Team Ko but the rest of their team members right to Cape Canaveral in Florida so they can witness the actual launch up into space itself,” Adams said.

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