BEST Experiments

"Big Experiments in Small Tubes"

When the space shuttle Endeavor flew on STS-57 in June 1993, it not only carried our Can Do GEOCAM camera system; it also carried 261 passive student experiments. These experiments represented the efforts of several thousand students throughout the Charleston Co. School District, surrounding school districts, and four other states. The experiments were the individual concepts of teams ranging in age from preschool to high school. Consequently, a tremendous variety of samples from collard greens and space tree seeds to microscopic water bears were flown.


Each prospective team was provided an experimental package equipped with five "Cryovials" and instructions. Each student team submitted five coded samples, one for space flight and four other samples, along with their experimental question and hypothesis. Three samples were exposed to the experimental variables of radiation, cold, and centrifugation respectively, while one negative control sample was passively stored at MUSC, and the fifth vial was included in the shuttle payload. During the mission, technicians and teachers ran the experimental variables at MUSC. The students received the samples back still coded so that they were unaware which samples were exposed to which experimental condition. Then they investigated their samples according to their individual research protocols. The results were presented in poster and platform form at a student research symposium.


When Can Do was given the opportunity to fly experiments again as a participant in the SEMS program on STS-80, there was no question that the popular passive experiments would be an integral part of the payload. An an acronym was coined and the "Big Experiments in Small Tubes" (BEST) experiments flew on the shuttle Columbia in December 1996. 325 student teams flew passive experiments on the flight and this time students were included in processing the vials at MUSC. Can Do Steering Committee members sorted the vials, helped prepare the payload, and made a database of the BEST experiments. A student symposium was held on April 19, 1997 to share the results. BEST is also scheduled to fly on future missions.


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Fourth grade student freezing vials with liquid nitrogen.

Students placing vials in centrifuge where they were spun to approximately 600 g.

Vials were exposed to extreme doses (20,000 rads) of radiation in a laboratory gammator.

NASA technicians mounting the SEMS payload with our project into the payload bay of the shuttle Columbia on the STS-80 mission.