A student team from Florida Tech’s Astrobiology Research and Education Society (ARES) won two of three awards in the undergraduate division at the fall 2021 Plant the Moon & Plant Mars Challenge.
The Plant the Moon and Plant Mars Challenge is a global science experiment, learning activity and inspirational project-based-learning challenge to see who can grow the best crops using lunar and Martian regolith simulant.
Growing the branched, tubular filaments of fungi known as mycelia, the Florida Tech team won Most Innovative Experiment and Best Evaluation of Results. For the experiment, they used 10 growing bags monitored in incubators and filled with a mixture of substrate and regolith. They took daily photos for additional monitoring and conducted weekly pH data collection to monitor decomposition of the substrate/regolith mixture.
All participants could define their own experiment parameters such as the structure of the plant growth setup, amount of water used, and nutrients or fertilizer added to the regolith simulant to help support plant growth. The completed projects were then evaluated based on review of the experimental setup and the results of their plant growth.
Caitlyn Hubric, a team lead along with Lea Adepoju, said the experience produced several important experiences for the budding scientists:
- They learned to formulate substrate for optimum mushroom growing
- Gave them exposure to mycelium biology
- Gave them experience in lab-formulated Martian regolith handling
- Reinforced knowledge on pH data collecting
- Boosted their scientific method writing skills through data processing
The team featured students from ocean engineering and marine sciences, biomedical and chemical engineering and science, and aerospace, physics and space sciences. Team members are:
Caitlyn Hubric (team lead)
Lea Adepoju (team lead)