ExoLab is an experiment platform that brings together classrooms and the International Space Station in a collaborative investigation of the effects of microgravity on living things. Designed with lesson sequence for 6th – 8th grade based on the NGSS, ExoLab is a plant biology investigation with Arabidopsis thaliana, a model plant organism used in many scientific investigations with a fully mapped genome (Kaul et al, 2000). The International Space Station (ISS) is home to advanced microgravity research for academia and industry. Working with school districts across the United States along with the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space, Magnitude.io seeks to provide an extraordinary exobiology experience mapped to accepted local science standards while dramatically reducing the cost to access experiments in space.

In classrooms that are using the ExoLab, students will grow their own A. thaliana in the ExoLab growth chamber simultaneously (or asynchronously – but matched chronologically) with a plant growing aboard the ISS. The experiments are initiated on the ISS in accordance with resupply missions. Resupply missions are scheduled every 3 months, missions are scheduled for early April 2018. This allows for multiple experiments per year, giving options on when to align the classroom experiment with the ISS experiment. Students look for relationships between the environmental conditions, including the effect of microgravity on the growth of this plant and living things in general.

The dimensions of the device both terrestrially and in-orbit are based on the common CubeSat specification, which standardizes satellite payloads in an approximate 10 cm cuboid format. ExoLab is in a 2U format, which means that its dimensions are 10 x 10 x 22 cm, approximately.

Within this compact frame are a series of sensors to capture, record, and report data, including images, as well as system to keep the plant alive. All of these operate autonomously and continuously.

  • Luminosity
  • Temperature
  • CO2
  • Humidity
  • Camera
  • WiFi

The seeds provided in the ExoLab program are of a species called Arabidopsis thaliana. A. thaliana is a model organism in plant biology, similarly to how fruit flies and mice can function as models for insects or mammals. A. thaliana has many ecotypes, which are identified and distinct varieties of a species. The ecotype we provide is called Columbia, and it is the most commonly studied ecotype. A. thaliana is a very deeply studied organism. It was the first plant to have its genome mapped, and more than 10 papers about this plant are written each day. A thaliana is so popular for a number of reasons. It

  • Is small and fast-growing, allowing lots of plants to be grown in limited time and volumes
  • Has a small genome, with only 5 chromosomes
  • Is self-pollinating, allowing for simple cloning and propagation
  • Has many variants and mutants available
  • Has a large body of published background research

The International Space Station (ISS) is Earth’s largest artificial satellite. Larger than a football field and weighing more than 450 tons, the ISS is home to the only US National Laboratory not on Earth.

Plants in Space | Unit description: (5E Science Method)

The Plants in Space Unit introduces students to the science practices necessary to conduct rigorous investigations, with the goal of understanding the factors that affect plant growth on Earth and in space. Growing Arabidopsis plants in the ExoLab module provides an elegant way to collect comparable data in both settings, and the online environment students use gives them access to data organization, graphing, and analysis tools. Over the course of five lessons, students acquire the investigation skills and information they need answer the unit question: What do plants need to grow in space?

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The Magnitude.io Classroom platform (LMS) is where the entire ExoLab experience comes together. Not only students and teachers log on to the platform to make their comparison observation with the International Space Station, they can also compare their plant data and images with students from around the US and other countries.

A Learning Management System (LMS) that captures the student progress, reports assessment and reduces workload for teachers for blended learning.

  • Lesson Library
  • Guided Lesson Interface
  • Quiz Tool
  • Data Visualization Tool
  • Online NotePad
  • Live Performance Dashboard
  • Observation Deck with ISS
  • Formative and Summative Assessment

Why am I on this project?

Professor Dr. Lewis Feldman

Why are we using Arabidopsis thaliana?

Professor Dr. Lewis Feldman

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