Students work with astronaut and compete to have ideas launched to the International Space Station

Students from Chicago region compete to launch their ideas to the International Space Station, just like the local team Reginae Reginarum did in November 2019.

On Aug. 3-4, high-school students attending the Higher Orbits Go For Launch! program work with Captain Wendy Lawrence, who is a retired naval aviator and astronaut, and scientists to create research proposals and projects that will compete to be developed and launched in coming months.

The two-day event is at the the Shores of Turtle Creek in Spring Grove, Illinois.

Higher Orbits is an educational nonprofit 501c3 that uses space to promote STEM, leadership, teamwork, and communication. Higher Orbits encourages high-school students nationwide to conceptualize and propose viable research projects that are launched other International Space Station. More than a dozen student projects have been developed for research in microgravity. Nine have launched to the ISS and the first art in space project launched to sub-orbit in December. More projects are being developed for launches in the coming year.

During a Higher Orbits Go For Launch! event in Highland Park in 2018, Team Reginae Reginarum designed a project that measured the stress and production of an antioxidant produced by algae. The experiment launched from Virginia's NASA Wallops Flight Facility in November 2019. Data has come back, students crunching results, which appear promising.

"If in microgravity it works efficiently, we can make the antioxidant naturally, which would be helpful," participant Leia Spaniak said. She and her team mates, whim she met at the Higher Orbits event, believe Go For Launch! helped them identify new life-long friends and professional goals.

During Go For Launch!, students design mission patches and other perform hands-on collaborative activities as they complete for daily awards. While students and STEM experts discuss challenges for humans in space and how microgravity may benefit research, participants experience science, technology, engineering, art, and math come together. They collaboratively define and design projects that contribute to humans living space and those bound by gravity.

The program encourages teamwork, leadership and communication. Judges evaluate projects and determine a winning project that will compete against other Go For Launch! teams to determine which is developed for launch into space.

Safety is paramount during Higher Orbits events. Participants agree to pandemic protocols, such as wearing masks and social distancing throughout the event, as discussed at, and the Shores of Turtle Creek provides indoor and outdoor space required for social distancing.

The two-day event culminates on Aug. 4 with student teams pitching their science research proposals to scientists and a winning team will be named.

Higher Orbits is grateful for this event's support from Scot Forge. For more information about Higher Orbits, visit or contact Michelle Lucas at (281) 451-5343.

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