Students at Nescot will be involved in a unique experiment in spring to assess the impact of space travel on plants.
The Preparation for Life and Work department will be growing a batch of rocket seeds that have been into orbit and comparing them against a batch that has stayed on Earth in a ‘blind’ test.
The results of the experiment, carried out by half a million people in 10,000 schools and colleges in the UK, will then be entered into a website designed by a Nescot Computer Science undergraduate.
“This is an innovative project, and we’re delighted Nescot students have been chosen to be involved throughout the process,” said Cliff Hall, Head of College.
“The students are really going to enjoy growing the rocket seeds, and we’re all absolutely fascinated to see the results of the trial.”
The Rocket Science initiative is being run by the Royal Horticultural Society and the UK Space Agency, with British astronaut Tim Peake taking 2kg of rocket seeds to the International Space Station last month.
After orbiting Earth at 17,000mph for several months the seeds will be sent, labelled only as batch ‘A’ or ‘B’, to the participants, to be grown under strict conditions alongside a less well-travelled batch.
Students across the UK will log their findings on a website with experts interpreting them to see the effect space travel has had.
The website was designed by 31-year-old Luke Cama as part of his final project on his Computer Science degree, in which he obtained First Class Honours.
At Nescot, the rocket seeds will be grown by students on the Entry 2-level Next Steps in the Land-based Industry course, many of whom have autism and speech and language difficulties.
“The students absolutely love the idea of the seeds being in space, going around the Earth and then ending up at Nescot,” said Horticulture tutor Caroline Knight.
“They’re going to learn such a lot of skills, from understanding how plants grow to measuring them and using the RHS website, so it’s a really exciting project to be involved in.”
Nescot’s Preparation for Life and Work department runs courses for students with learning difficulties and/or disabilities, as well as people without formal qualifications.