erik herbert.jpg

Erik Herbert

Across public and charter schools in Buffalo and Niagara Falls, 647 students will have an opportunity to participate in an educational competition that will send the winners to work with astronauts making a trip to the International Space Station.

The program is being presented by Western New York STEM Hub, abbreviated for the New York State educational initiative that emphasizes science, technology, engineering and mathematics in conjunction with the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education (NCESSE). In the competition, students will be asked to design experiments in "microgravity labs" and to write flight proposals for the astronauts. 

Students will also be asked to design a "mission patch," an emblem commemorating the hypothetical flight.

One team of winners, according to Western New York STEM, will have their flight proposal undertaken by astronauts serving on the International Space Station, while another team's mission patch will be display at the station.

But Western New York STEM Hub President Michelle Kavanaugh says there's one hitch, the Buffalo-Niagara schools involved will need to raise $23,000 by the end of August in order to be eligible for the program. Half that sum, Kavanaugh said in a press release, has been attained.

"Community support is that final booster rocket for this special program," Kavanaugh said in a statement.

Western New York Hub, according to their website, operates as a "volunteer driven incorporated organization" that represents 200 institutions in Western New York.

Kavanaugh said, with its $66.7 million capital improvements project completed in spring, "The Niagara Falls City School District has distinguished itself with innovative STEM electives and is the only school district in New York state to have a STEM lab in every school."