NASA selects student experiment for high-altitude balloon launch

For the second straight year, NASA selected a science experiment proposed by a team of Ransom Everglades students for a launch on a NASA-sponsored craft. After last year's project won a ride on a rocket, this year's team of Annabella Miki ’25, Chloe Alfonso ’24, Connor Alfonso ’26, Derrick Ma ’24, Dieter Manstein ’25 and Nelson Manstein ’26 learned today that their proposed experiment measuring the impact of ultraviolet light on DNA will be tested aboard a high-altitude balloon sponsored by NASA.
NASA and Future Engineers jointly announced today that the team of RE students was among 60 from around the nation, and only two from Florida, that will receive $1,500 to build their proposed project over the next four months. Part of the NASA TechRise Student Challenge, the experiment will be carried by a NASA-sponsored commercial balloon to an altitude of 70,000 feet, where it will float for at least four hours. During the ascent, flight and descent, the students' proposed experiment will record incremental increases in ultraviolet rays and their impact on biosensor markers; the team’s goal is to determine how the duration and intensity of ultraviolet light affects the DNA mutation rate that is often experienced during space travel.
The students who proposed the complex experiment – which requires knowledge of chemistry, physics, engineering and math – are tasked with building it and inserting it into a 4x4x8 inch box for the launch (on a date to be determined) by May 6. With the support of Science Department Coordinator Jay Salon and STEM faculty member Miranda Klees and the guidance of Future Engineers advisors, the student-scientists will work outside of class time to assemble the experiment.

"We are so proud of students who have collaborated on this novel project to address a significant issue related to space travel," Interim Head of School Rachel Rodriguez said. "They devised an ingenious plan to understand the effects of ultraviolet light at high altitudes, and we are so excited they now have the opportunity and support to pursue the design and testing of their work. We cannot wait until launch day!"
Founded in 1903, Ransom Everglades School is a coeducational, college preparatory day school for grades 6 - 12 located on two campuses in Coconut Grove, Florida. Ransom Everglades School produces graduates who "believe that they are in the world not so much for what they can get out of it as for what they can put into it." The school provides rigorous college preparation that promotes the student's sense of identity, community, personal integrity and values for a productive and satisfying life, and prepares the student to lead and to contribute to society.