The Bluejay Team from Minnesota West Community & Technical College won the “Best In Show Award: Evaluation of Results” in the Undergraduate and Professional Category in the Fall 2022 “Plant The Moon Challenge.”
The Challenge, a program of the Institute of Competition Sciences, is a global science experiment conducted to grow plants in conditions similar to the moon. Participants help astronauts learn to grow food on the moon.
Teams explored a real-world experience consisting of four parts: Research, Design, Plant & Monitor, and Analyze & Present.
The Bluejay Team received a grant from NASA’s Minnesota Space Grant Consortium to cover the $405 cost of the Challenge kit. The kit included a 5-kilogram bag of lunar simulant, enough to pot about 12 plants.
The team, competing at the undergraduate and professional level, consisted of Minnesota West student Dalton Vorwald, and advisers Minnesota West Biology Instructor Heidi Tarus, Chemistry Instructor Dr. Tyler Wadzinski, and Physics Instructor Dr. Paul Seifert.
In their lunar samples, the Bluejay Team’s study focuses on the best source of nitrogen that will allow plants to grow while reducing the amount of payload required on a spacecraft.
Day Zero started on September 30, 2022, when the planting, watering, and organization began. By day 3, germination had begun and by day 10, true leaves were reported. The last day of the growing period was Day 49, on November 18.
After a 10-week period, the team submitted their final project report.
The results supported their hypothesis. The Minnesota West Bluejay team found that Collard Greens (B. oleracea) grew significantly larger in the presence of a nitrogen-rich compound compared to when no nitrogen source was provided. They found no significant difference in plant growth between the three different nitrogen sources.
Urea is the most weight-efficient nitrogen source tested; therefore, they recommend the use of urea as it would reduce the payload of the spacecraft traveling to the Moon.