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August 31, 2014

Sixth-grader shares space exploration

Over the summer, Science Buddies, a website that provides science resources for research and projects, published an astronomy project based on work done by Ashleigh Nicoll, 11, of Holly Springs.

Ashleigh Nicoll is sharing her science project with the world.

Over the summer, Science Buddies, a website that provides science resources for research and projects, published an astronomy project dubbed “Satellite Science: How Does Speed Affect Orbiting Altitude?”

The project was based on a work completed by Ashley, 11, a now sixth-grader at Holly Ridge Middle School in Holly Springs.

“Aerospace engineers run calculations and set up computer models to help them predict how satellites move in space,” the project’s abstract states.

“But in this astronomy science project, you will create a physical model with marbles, clay and a cookie sheet to help you study how satellites move in space and learn from your observations.”

Ashleigh developed a curiosity about space in third grade. Ashleigh was studying for her school’s spelling bee, and she encountered the word astrophysicist.

She looked it up and found videos by astrophysicist and author Neil deGrasse Tyson and started reading his books.

After that, she was hooked, said Ashleigh’s mom Kathy Nicoll.

Ashleigh’s third-grade science fair project focused on the moon’s craters.

She participated in the regional and then state science fair, where she won first place in the Elementary Division.

In fourth grade, Ashleigh’s project centered on asteroid Apophis, which was discovered in 2004. Ashleigh again participated at the regional and state science fair, where she won the “Young Scientist Award.”

Last school year, Ashleigh’s project compared Cassini, the spacecraft orbiting Saturn, to Juno, a satellite orbiting Jupiter.

Ashleigh was disappointed that she received an honorable mention at the regional science competition and wasn’t invited to compete on the state level.

However, in May, Science Buddies did a story on Ashleigh and announced that its scientists were developing a hands-on astronomy project based on her work. The project was published in July.

“I thought it was really cool because everybody gets to see the project I did, and learn more about what I did with it,” she said.

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