Sandy Miller Elementary School students are assuming the role of scientists and engineers.

“We believe that we can help advance technology and astronomy incredibly,” said fifth grader Dominic Hargrove. “With this opportunity, we’re seizing it and trying to do our best.”

A group of six professional scientists are in a dome in Hawaii, simulating an eight-month mission to Mars. It’s called the Hi Seas Project.

The local student scientists are helping the professionals with their mission.

“To me, this all feels like a big pleasure and an amazing opportunity,” Hargrove said.

Students are helping find real-word solutions to five potential problems: acoustics, robotics, recycling, space suits and food.

“Our project right now was water filtration, and it worked really great,” said fifth grader Oscar Partida.

Using activated carbon from fish tanks, cotton balls and coffee filters, the goal of this group is crystal clear.

“If they could find a way to filter the water, they could have a clean water source to drink and survive,” Partida said.

“My best part was actually making it work, because once you got it working, it was really fun,” fifth grader Karyssa Smethurst said. “It feels like someone may be living on Mars and actually surviving. That’s how good it feels.”

Another group worked on absorbing sound, giving astronauts in close quarters peace and quiet.

“Around the dome, you can hear every conversation they’re having. So, our goal was to make the dome soundproof,” said fifth grader Frida Arciga.

Another team worked on an alternative to a spacesuit helmet that is strong, flexible and fog-free.

“We don’t necessarily know what’s going to happen at that exact time if we go to Mars, so we’re trying to prepare ourselves for all different possibilities,” Hargrove said.

The students maintained consistent contact, via video, with the scientists on the simulated mission.

“With their questions, they get excited to know that somebody is interested in their work,” said science teacher Sharon Pearson.

When scientist Sophie Milam sent her first video updates, students were thrilled.

“She sent a video in reply, and I walked in the room when they were presenting it,” Pearson said. “The kids ran to the front of the classroom to be as close as they could to see it and hear what she had to say.”

Student engagement and enthusiasm is one reason for success.

“They want me to come see their projects in all their classrooms, and they are just excited,” Pearson said.

The project engenders a true love of science.

“That you don’t do anything wrong, you either do it right or just keep going,” Smethurst said.

That’s What’s Cool at School.

If you wish to nominate a program for What’s Cool at School, visit our website or e-mail us.

You can also vote for this story. Each month, 8 News NOW will award $250 to the program that receives the most votes.