Mission 12 Students Visit Toquam to Discuss Their Project

Isabella Sorial, Staff Writer

On Thursday April 5, three members of Mission 12 to the International Space Station (Grihith Manchanda, John Bolognino and Vedant Gannu, all previously of Toquam Elementary) paid a visit to their alma mater to congratulate a fourth grader with a passion for space. You may know that Senior Krantz Medeus designed a patch for the mission a few months back, winning the competition in the High School division. Fourth grader Alexander Barker designed a second patch, winning the K-8th grade competition.


With their advisor, SHS science teacher Susan Dougherty, the boys went to Toquam teacher Sarah Berkley’s fourth grade classroom. They were greeted with smiles from the children in attendance. Berkley embraced the boys upon their entrance and was especially thrilled to see Manchanda, who’d had Berkley as a teacher in the third grade.


Dougherty introduced the boys with pride and allowed them to speak about their experiment and their aspirations growing up. Reminiscing, Manchanda said, “I remember being in your seats looking up at people like me. I’ve always been interested in space–and look at me now–I’m sending an experiment into space.”


The boys explained that they are testing how well yeast grows in space in order to see if we can make bread on Mars. When discussing why they chose this experiment, Bolognino asked, “What is the most important thing for a space colony? Food. So we need to know if astronauts can grow food in space.” During further explanation, they said that they chose yeast because it is one of the easiest substances to work with.


Out of 11,000 schools, 30 were chosen to send an experiment to the International Space Station. The students have also been invited to the National Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C. to talk to other scientists sending experiments.


“I’m mind blown” exclaimed one student after Bolognino explained the importance of their experiment.


The students asked many questions. Some were: “Why yeast?” “How will space affect yeast?” “Do you want to be an astronaut when you grow up?” “Could you make a gravity gun?”


NASA sent some gifts to Barker for winning the patch competition. Dougherty happily gave Barker an aeronautics coloring book and a text about aeronautics.


At the end of the session, Dougherty presented him with his patch, explaining that the patch will go up into space with the experiment. His class cheered for him upon seeing the patch.


Afterward, the students spoke with Barker’s parents. His father is a construction worker and his mother runs a daycare and has a phD in Russian Literature.

“We don’t know where his passion for space came from, “ his mother said, “but we will support him as much as we can.”


As the Stamford High Students exited,  Barker said that “the harder you try, the more you succeed.”