The Next Generation of Space Explorers in “What’s Cool at School”


On November 10th on Wallops Island, Virginia, a local high school senior and a team made up of his former Gilbert, Arizona classmates, had their science experiment launched onto the International Space Station.

Nicolas Jepsen, a Coronado High School senior, used to attend school in Arizona. Nicolas, and four former high school classmates came up with an innovative science experiment that studies the growth of peanut plants in space – testing how much nitrogen a peanut could insert into the soil in space.

That won statewide and national competitions. 

The next step – from science competition success to space travel – going to Virginia to witness the launch. The challenge was getting there to see the launch in person. 

Nicolas took the proactive approach of writing a letter to Southwest Airlines CEO, Gary Kelly, telling him about the project and launch, and, asking for a lift.

Dan Landson, a Southwest Airlines Spokesperson said, “It’s incredible to see a letter that was so well-written by a high school senior. We were able to look at that, and know instantly, that this is something we want to do.”

Southwest Airlines considers STEM education crucial to their future success. A talent pipeline, if you will. 

So Southwest Air went above and beyond – choosing to fly out Nicolas and the entire talented team to witness the launch in person in Virginia.

Nicolas said, “We actually get to witness a rocket being launched. I don’t know how many kids can say they’ve actually seen a real live rocket launch!”

And that’s….What’s Cool at School.

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