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When NASA launches its last scheduled flight in the space shuttle program in February, it will carry a science experiment built by three Utah students.

Keltson Howell, Megan Dolle and Nikos Liodakis, juniors at Hillcrest High School in Midvale, are one of 16 teams selected nationwide by the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program to send a science project aboard shuttle Endeavour. There were 447 entries in the competition.

Canyons School District, with some help from Jake Garn, Utah's former astronaut and U.S. Senator, announced the news to Hillcrest students on Tuesday.

"We were all very excited," Dolle said. "It's really cool that we can have an experiment on the last space shuttle to be flying up in space."

Dolle and her teammates plan to observe how microgravity affects embryonic development in frog eggs. Two eggs will be sent on Endeavour. Two eggs kept on earth will serve as a "control" with which to compare development.

The students are invited to watch the Endeavour launch on Feb. 27 at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida and to attend a NASA conference next spring.

Canyons encouraged entries in the program, which is run by the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education to promote education in science, technology, engineering and math. Teachers and science professionals reviewed proposals before selecting four to enter the competition. Students at Brighton and Jordan High Schools earned honorable mentions.

Just submitting the proposal, which required college writing skills, was a learning experience for the students, said Hillcrest High physics teacher Jonathan Miller.

And, the excitement of sending an experiment into space provides "motivation" for students, he said.

"It's fantastic," Miller said. "It's going to be an awesome opportunity. I wish I was able to do that in high school."

More winners

Jordan and Brighton students received honorable mentions:

Jordan • Jack Casdorph and Whitney Peterson

Brighton • Weihsuan Li and Emerson Evans