A group of Parksville high school students are certainly aiming for higher education as they work on an experiment that will soon be launched toward the International Space Station.

The five students and their teacher from Ecole Ballenas Secondary School are working on an experiment involving alfalfa sprouts to see how well they will grow in microgravity, believing they will provide not only nutrition for astronauts but also oxygen.

"There’s new capsules going out and they plan on doing missions to Mars and missions to nearby asteroids and it’s really important to have a viable food source that’s renewable as well,” said Alexander Marshall, one of the students involved in the experiment.

The students will conduct experiments on the ground while astronauts aboard the space station carry out identical actions.

“They’re going to be opening two clamps on two separate occasions and they’re going to be shaking the tube to let the solution completely mix with the seeds.” student Robert Lachance explained.

The experiment will rocket its way towards the space station in June, taking off from the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida with the students hopefully watching in person. 

Filipe Pereira can’t wait. “It’s going to look awesome because I don’t think that many people can say that they sent stuff to space and I’m 17 and that’s amazing," he said.

The race to space actually began last May when the call went out from the Student Space Flight Experiment Program in the United States.

Students were asked to craft space-related questions and then prepare papers outlining their experiments. Those submissions were then judged locally with three winners being sent down for further judging south of the border. 

The Parksville submission and one from Edmonton are the only two Canadian entries in the list of forty experiments that will be conducted in space. Teacher Carl Savage says it’s a chance in a lifetime for the students. 

“The excitement that it brings to the student, you can almost see the spark ignite in their eyes, you know that there is potentially a career here for them,” Savage said.

Savage said part of the process for the students also involves raising funds so they can travel to the June launch as well a trip to Washington DC where they will present the findings of their experiment, once the results are brought back from space. 

He’s encouraging anyone interesting in assisting the students in their venture contact Ecole Ballenas Secondary in Parksville.