A 14-year-old girl’s science experiment will be performed aboard the International Space Station

Grace Stumpf, 14, has always had a passion for the sky. Some of her favorite childhood memories of hers were building paper airplanes with her father and seeing which models flew the best.

These activities allowed him to discover the four forces of flight (lift, thrust, drag and weight) and to understand how wings and the wind work together. Furthermore, when he learned that his science experiment proposal had been shortlisted for the iLEAD CA DreamUp to Space Design Challenge competition and that he would witness its flight into space on a SpaceX mission to the International Space Station (ISS), we can say that was over the moon.

“I was so happy I couldn’t believe it. I had this huge and incredible opportunity and this blessing before me. I was really a bit intimidated at first”Grace said. She received the message via email in math class and had to explain to her teacher why she was jumping for joy. “I am so thankful for this opportunity, it has completely changed my life! »

Home-schooled since the third grade, Grace is enrolled in iLEAD Exploration, a free personalized learning program located in Southern California with numerous hands-on learning opportunities.

In the DreamUp to Space Design Challenge, students learn about the ISS, microgravity, and space exploration, then use their skills to design, develop, and deliver experiences. More than 100 students were involved in the initial proposal phase.

iLEAD Principal Kathleen Fredette and student Carter Sand enjoy a STEAM event at an air show at Edwards Air Force Base where more than 1,200 students participated in hands-on learning with aerospace industry experts. Carter Sand and Grace Stumpf have been accepted for their classroom experiment to be sent to the International Space Station. (Linda KC Reynolds)

Grace Stumpf and her partner, Carter Sand, have proposed an experiment to see how microgravity would affect the germination of the Yucca glauca plant, which supports the kinds of studies NASA has done on resource exploration for extended space travel and colonization.

During their research, they discovered that this plant is native to Central America and that its seeds can withstand drought conditions and temperatures of up to 121 degrees Celsius. Soap can be made by grinding its roots with a small amount of water. This plant is edible and contains vitamins C and B, calcium and iron, and is useful for inflammation, arthritis and migraines. Its leaves can be woven to make baskets, so the whole plant is usable.

The space experiment will be replicated on earth simultaneously to provide comparison data for evaluation. “We have to write instructions for astronauts, which is very interesting”Grace said. “Before I was so scared of public speaking, it was awful, but now I think it’s funny. »

Flight lessons

Two years ago, while having lunch at the Fullerton Airport near her home in Garden Grove, her father, Chris Stumpf, gave her a birthday card and a gift certificate for a flying lesson.

” I couldn’t believe it. I asked him when I could go, he replied: ‘Immediately!’ » she says.

After class, the instructor encouraged Grace’s father to support his daughter’s newly reinvigorated flying goals and said he already knew more than most of his adult students. Unfortunately the lessons were canceled due to COVID-19 but this gave Grace time to study the basics and the opportunity to experience high flying. She was determined.

“I think part of me has always felt the need to leave the ground behind”she explained.

Her father says he always did his best to teach Grace and her 11-year-old sister, Emma Stumpf, how to learn how to learn.

“If they learn to grow, adapt and be flexible, they will always have a job and never be stuck in one position. Kids need to be exposed to things they don’t even think they care about. You never know what might pique interest”he said.

Grace has embraced her father’s encouragement to have a possibility mindset. Her father has always been her best mentor.

Mentoring issues

Encouraged by Kathleen Fredette, director of STEAM initiatives at iLEAD Schools, Grace submitted an essay for a senior fellowship awarded by the Laze Memorial Soaring Foundation in Bakersfield, California and was awarded.

“Ms. Fredette is so inspiring, I love her energy and enthusiasm. She started out as my mentor and now I consider her a friend.” Grace said. “He has done so much for me and my family. She is truly an extraordinary person. »

It’s always a little scary for Nalani Stumpf, Grace’s mother, to see her flying over the Tehachapi Mountains.

“Grace was born premature, weighing less than 1 kg, and we have always protected her”Nalani explains. The doctors had told her and her husband that they had to abort the fetus. They told them that if the child survived he would have a miserably short life, marked by blindness and very serious complications.

“It was the grace of God and the power of prayer that brought about the miracle of an intelligent and healthy child”said the mother with emotion.

The family drives from Orange County to Skylark North Glider Flight School in Tehachapi, a 300-mile trip for high-flying lessons. Grace’s sister doesn’t mind the trip and takes the opportunity to read and draw animals. She hopes to become a veterinarian and she knows her family will give her the same support.

Nalani, Emma, ​​Grace, and Chris Stumpf take a break from Grace’s glider lesson at Skylark North Glider Flight School in Tehachapi, California. Grace’s family are 100% supportive of her and she travels 463km for lessons. Emma, ​​11, draws and reads to pass the time, knowing that when she studies to be a veterinarian, her family will support her, “because that’s what families do.” (Linda KC Reynolds)

“One of the reasons we chose Grace’s essay is that she said she wanted to inspire other girls to fly”said Jane Barrett, pilot and owner of Skylark North Airport. “Most people say they wanted to be a test pilot or an airline pilot, but Grace wanted to give back to the upscale community, so that helped seal the deal. »

The courage to try new things

Grace doesn’t want to be considered rare because she’s a female pilot. In 2022, according to the Pilot Institute, female pilots will make up just 9.2 percent of all FAA certified pilots.

“I want to start changing the dynamic. My goal is to become a flight instructor and inspire as many young women as possible to have ambitious goals”Grace said.

She feels she has been successful because she has great mentors, full support from her family, and is no longer afraid to try new things. You met two astronauts and several test pilots at flight school. Her most notable encounter was with Albion Bowers, who was the chief scientist at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center. He was a constant source of encouragement to her. Pilots from Virgin, Lockheed and Northrop also encourage Grace when they take glider lessons at the airport.

“I still have a long way to go, but when I look back and see how far I’ve come in the last few years, myself at 12 would be very proud of who I am today.”Grace underlined.

Grace Stumpf, 14, prepares to take off with her instructor John Chapman at Skylark North Glider Flight School in Tehachapi, California. Grace was encouraged to enter an essay contest by Kathleen Fredette, director of STEAM initiatives at iLEAD schools, and she won a top-level scholarship. (Linda KC Reynolds)
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