Sisters Rebecca, age 13, and Kimberly, age 10, designed and built spacecraft that reached the edge of the earth's atmosphere! Here's what they had to say about their out-of-this-world science project!
We built our own spacecraft!
It's a giant balloon that floats into the air and collects data about temperature, wind speed, and other things. It's pretty exciting. When we launch our weather balloon, we do a countdown. After 3, 2, 1... we let it go and look up. The balloon lifts into the air and gets smaller and smaller as it fades into the sky. It's fun to watch it go, especially after all the work it takes just to get it launched. Kimberly always does a lift-off dance.
A Tale of Three Launches
We started this spacecraft project as a family two years ago, with our mom and dad. Making the spacecraft was the biggest part. We brainstormed ideas together, designed it, bought the materials and then built it ourselves. We put a camera on our spacecraft, and added a picture of our cat, Loki!
At our first launch, two years ago, we didn't know what to expect. We kind of let the weather balloon go and hoped for the best. We used binoculars to watch it drift away. It went behind a cloud, then we couldn't see it anymore. That was stressful because we were hoping it was OK. But that day, it traveled 51 miles! Our second weather balloon went 72 miles. And because we put a camera on the spacecraft, it was like we were there, too. For our third launch, we put little bits of bacteria on our spacecraft and launched it. NASA is going to analyze the bacteria data, which is very cool. We were so excited when we found out NASA was going to look at our data!
Meeting the President
One of the craziest things that happened since we built our launcher was being invited to the White House Science Fair in 2016! We got to present our project in the State Dining Room to President Obama. A lot of people wanted to take selfies with us. At one point, everyone except the presenters were asked to leave the room. Then a ton of cameras were set up. Reporters started interviewing us and then, President Obama walked in. We were so nervous as we waited our turn to talk to him. But when he spoke with us, we weren't nervous anymore. He was really nice. We shook his hand and he asked a lot of questions about how the spacecraft works. We could hear cameras going off all over the room.
Why We Love Science
It's fun to learn. But building and launching a spacecraft is a lot of responsibility. We have to do everything by a certain time, plan it, and test everything. We can't expect someone else to fix problems that come up. We have to fix them ourselves.
Sometimes people have doubted that we—two girls—had the power to do all this on our own. But a project like this is not about how old you are; it's about how much hard work you put into it. And about how you solve problems along the way instead of giving up. This is what we want to tell girls about getting involved in science: it's something we can all get into. And it's fun. When that weather balloon launches, we get something like a proud feeling (Rebecca says it's a bubbly sensation, like happiness bursting out) and a satisfied feeling, especially if we can inspire and empower others to love science like we do.
Excerpted from American Girl magazine. © 2018 American Girl.
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