Student wins international contest to send patch into space
Published July 11, 2014
MADISON HEIGHTS — Few can claim that their art has left Earth’s atmosphere.
Tanner Barndollar, 13, will soon be able to say just that.
During the school year, when he was a seventh-grader at Wilkinson Middle School in Madison Heights, Tanner submitted a patch design to the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP), launched in June 2010 by the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education in partnership with NanoRacks LLC.
Winning designs will accompany actual astronauts on a real mission to the International Space Station this fall. Ultimately, Tanner was one of eight students selected from more than 51,000 students who participated worldwide. More than 140 schools competed across the U.S., Canada and Great Britain. In the Madison district, more than 100 designs were submitted.
Sandra Barndollar, Tanner’s mother and a trustee on the Madison school board, said she was shocked when she learned the news.
“When the teacher called initially, saying they have Tanner in the office, I said, ‘Oh great, what did he do?’ He’s not a bad kid, but you never know what happens in middle school,” Sandra said. “But then I was told he had won, and I was like, ‘Wow!’”
The plan is for the district to arrange a countdown ceremony for the launch of the spacecraft this fall, once they have the date and time. Once the patch goes to the space station and returns to Earth, it will come back to the Barndollar family, complete with a flight certificate authenticating its journey.
This will be enshrined at Wilkinson Middle School for future generations, alongside a scholastic scholar award belonging to Tanner’s uncle. Tanner is the third generation in his family attending Madison Schools.
“Well, Tanner, now you have something to sit in the case next to your uncle, and it’s a bit more impressive,” Sandra said. “You just one-upped your uncle!”
The patch measures 3.5 inches by 3.5 inches. The program requirements were that the patch be an original design on a single sheet of paper, and that the design reflect pride in one’s community and participation in the SSEP.
For the winning design, Tanner started with a circle. Within it, he drew a scene in outer space: the Earth and its atmosphere at the bottom, a crater-filled moon in the background, and an SSEP rocket traveling to the International Space Station.
Behind this scene is the letter “W” for Wilkinson. Half of the “W” is colored red while the other half is colored white, so that the white half, along with the circle scene, forms the No. 6 for “Mission 6.” The backdrop is blue; along with the red and white, the patch evokes the United States of America.
“Altogether, the mission patch includes local and global connections with the world,” Tanner said during a prepared speech he gave at a Madison board meeting June 16.
Tanner worked on the patch design during his enrichment period, where students can finish up work from other classes. He said that when his teacher, Angel Abdulahad, announced the winner of the competition over the PA system, “I was not only in shock, but I was speechless.”
At press time, the Madison Heights City Council was drafting a resolution to recognize Tanner for his achievement.
“We’re all very proud of Tanner and his accomplishment,” said Madison Heights City Councilman Mark Bliss. “How many times can a student say that their art is in space? That is absolutely incredible. We’ve recognized the full gamut of accomplishments recently, from students in our community, but this one is just so unique and powerful. Perhaps Tanner will be the next Wyland” — a world-famous marine artist from Lamphere — “and take it even farther.”