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Miami Proud: Student scientists impacting future of space travel

Fairchild Innovation Lab's plants may boost space exploration
Fairchild Innovation Lab's plants may boost space exploration 02:15

MIAMI - Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden is a landmark in Miami with 83 acres of plants, important research work, and gorgeous views. 

It is also host to a high school for aspiring scientists and a botany program that is literally out of this world.

Biotech High is a Miami-Dade County Magnet High School. 

Student scientists in this program are impacting the future of space travel by growing plants that may be astronaut food. 

Fairchild's Director of Education Amy Padolf explains.

"On the International Space Station there is a garden it's called 'Veggie' they have the same size, same shape, and same lighting as this particular garden. We built this to replicate what's on there."

Determining what will grow in zero gravity is tricky work and time-consuming- given the thousands of plant varieties. 

Padolf said they partnered with NASA about seven years ago for this program Growing Beyond Earth, supplying the "army of students" here and 400 other schools around the world.

The students measure the growth of various edible plants and send a steady stream of valuable data to NASA scientists who are developing technologies for growing food crops for long-duration missions into deep space. 

In its seventh year, more than 40,000 middle and high school students and their teachers nationwide have contributed hundreds of thousands of data points and tested 180 varieties of edible plants for NASA. 

The plants are launched on Space X rockets up to the ISS.

Conner is a junior in the program, who always loved science and feels connected to this work. 

"I feel like what I'm doing is important and impactful and I want to see the results on a bigger scale."

The result for the students is learning to communicate their research, work in teams, and impact their future plans.

"We've noticed these kids become not only passionate about the environmental - we have a tremendous amount of students to come out of the studying stem fields and going into the stem fields," Padolf said.

Fairchild Garden first opened to the public in 1938 and today hosts many education and art programs for all ages. 

Biotech High is one of many public school options open to all students. 

You can learn more here. 

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