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Edmonton student headed to Kennedy Space Centre with research pitch

Avalon Junior High School teacher Homa Geisel, left, stands at a whiteboard beside Samantha Luchkow, 15, who will be presenting research by herself and a team on bacillus cereus at the Kennedy Space Centre on July 1, 2024. (Matt Marshall / CTV News Edmonton) Avalon Junior High School teacher Homa Geisel, left, stands at a whiteboard beside Samantha Luchkow, 15, who will be presenting research by herself and a team on bacillus cereus at the Kennedy Space Centre on July 1, 2024. (Matt Marshall / CTV News Edmonton)
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An Avalon Junior High School student is headed to Florida, but not for the reason so many other Edmontonians are.

Samantha Luchkow, 15, is representing her team at the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP) National Conference at the Kennedy Space Centre on July 1.

The team is the first from Edmonton Public Schools to be selected.

"I've been waiting for an opportunity like this for so long," Luchkow, who has wanted to be a scientist since she was an elementary student, told CTV News Edmonton in a recent interview.

The program, launched in 2010 by the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education, evaluates microgravity experiment proposals from students, choosing a winner to be executed on the International Space Station.

As a semi-finalist at the conference, Luchkow will present her team's research on bacillus cereus, a bacterium found on rice and other starchy foods.

"It's such an important food source on earth, so we would probably be growing it on spaceships," she said of how her team chose its topic. "And so food poisoning would be really inconvenient in space so it's important to test how bacteria would grow to know whether we need to take a lot more precautions or whether it would grow even slower and that could help us on earth."

She will have to speak for six minutes and answer questions for another two, which she is looking forward to the most.

"I'm really excited to meet other people who also have this passion for science," Luchkow said.

"She's very curious, she loves science, but most importantly, she's a very kind human being," commented her teacher, Homa Geisel.

"She always wants to help people around her and the world and I think that's why she's so interested in science, because she wants to do more. She wants to have a world that's peaceful for everybody."

With files from CTV News Edmonton's Matt Marshall