Microbes from seven Pop Warner teams will blast off from Kennedy Space Center, first quarter of 2014, as part of Project MERCCURI
LANGHORNE, Penn. (Dec. 11, 2013) – Microbes collected from the practice and game fields of seven Pop Warner cheer teams will soon blast into orbit for research and a near zero-gravity growth competition on the International Space Station. Pop Warner Little Scholars, Inc., the nation’s oldest youth football, cheer and dance organization, and Science Cheerleader, LLC, an organization that works with current and former professional cheerleaders (who are also scientists and engineers) to encourage young cheerleaders to pursue careers in science and technology, today announced the samples chosen by Project MERCCURI. The project, anchored by the Eisen Lab at the University of California at Davis, investigates how microbes from Earth compare to each other and those found on the International Space Station (ISS).
A dozen Pop Warner cheer teams participated in events to collect microbes from their practice and games fields, and the microbes of seven teams were selected to fly on the Space Station. They will compete against 33 other microbes collected from NFL and NBA stadiums and other landmark surfaces in the Microbial Space Playoffs to see which samples grow the fastest.
The Pop Warner cheer teams whose samples are headed to the Space Station include the Apopka Blue Darters (FL), Chittenango Bears (NY), Coastal Bengals (NC), Coronado Islanders (CA), Lauderhill Broncos (FL), Lake Brantley Patriots (FL) and Port Reading Saints (NJ). The Darters, Bears, Bengals and Patriots qualified for the 2013 Pop Warner National Cheer and Dance Championships currently taking place Dec. 9-13 at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World. Project MERCCURI and Science Cheerleaders from the Orlando Magic and Miami Dolphins will announce which samples were chosen at 9:25 a.m. on Dec. 11 at the Championships.
Science Cheerleader members, current and former NFL and NBA cheerleaders pursuing science and technology careers, have led public events to collect 4,000 additional microbial samples at NFL, NBA, and MLB stadiums, and from landmarks including the Liberty Bell, the Ben Franklin statue at the Franklin Institute, and Sue the T-Rex at the Field Museum in Chicago. All samples are being sequenced and analyzed at UC Davis and Argonne National Lab, and a total of 40 are being selected by the Project team and approved by NASA. Those sample groups will fly to the ISS where further research will help scientists learn about the population and behaviors of microbes, which may have implications for long-term manned space travel.
The microbes will be flown to the ISS via the Space X rocket, scheduled to blast off from the Kennedy Space Center during the first quarter of 2014. Playing cards that outline the details of each microbe selected, as well as their importance, are available online. Project MERCCURI will provide ongoing data on the growth of the microbes in space and details about results from the 4,000 samples sequenced. Results of the “microbial playoffs” growth competition on the ISS will be available on SpaceMicrobes.org where visitors can also find free interactive visualization tools and ongoing lesson plans. Project MERCCURI was made possible by Space Florida and NanoRacks.
“Project MERCCURI has provided a unique opportunity to engage Pop Warner cheerleaders in a national science experiment,” said Mary FitzGerald, COO of Pop Warner. “We hope this initiative, and our ongoing partnership with Science Cheerleader, has inspired our young cheerleaders nationwide to realize the amazing opportunities that are available to them and pursue careers in science.”
About Pop Warner Little Scholars, Inc.
Founded in 1929 and headquartered in Langhorne, PA, Pop Warner Little Scholars is the world’s oldest youth football, cheerleading and dance organization and the only youth sports organization that emphasizes academics as a prerequisite for participation. Currently there are organizations in 43 states, Scotland, Germany, Russia, Japan and Mexico. The NFLPA estimates that 70% of all current NFL Players got their start in Pop Warner programs. For more information on Pop Warner and its programs visit popwarner.com, our Facebook page and follow us on Twitter.
Founded by Darlene Cavalier, former Philadelphia 76ers cheerleader-turned-science advocate, Science Cheerleader works with more than 250 current and former NFL and NBA cheerleaders. They playfully challenge stereotypes, inspire kids to consider careers in science and technology, and encourage everyday people to get involved in real science activities through citizen science projects at SciStarter.com. Cavalier and her efforts with both organizations have been featured on the Today Show, CNN, ESPN, NPR, BBC, Discover Magazine, and more. Learn more at www.sciencecheerleader.com and www.scistarter.com.
Science Cheerleader Pop Warner
Claire LaBeaux Alexandra Paparsenos