Students, experts collaborate over kidney stones in space

The seven-student group traveled from south Florida to Seattle for a weeklong internship program with UW Medicine and UW researchers.

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Seven Florida high school students with accomplished science résumés visited Seattle recently to learn from researchers at UW Medicine and the University of Washington. The relationship between the two groups dates back to 2019, when the students, who were middle schoolers at the time, joined a club dedicated to robotics. 

“These students were doing an after-school project that related to health in space travel with NASA,” said Michael Bailey, adjunct associate professor of urology at the University of Washington School of Medicine and UW associate professor of mechanical engineering. “They had done their research, and people pointed to the University of Washington as the place doing this.” 

The student group from Pahokee, Florida (population of 5,537; median household income of $30,753) became interested in technology to aid astronauts in dealing with kidney stones, which can occur as a consequence of space flight. The students even created a prototype device during their project.  

In 2018, the researchers in Seattle began testing the same type of technology on behalf of the NASA. That study made the collaboration with the Florida high school students a natural fit. 

“We guided them through their project, and they did very well in presenting it and competing in competition,” Bailey said.

Last week’s face-to-face reunion of sorts has served as an internship experience for the visiting students. 

“It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I didn't think I was going to be able to be a part of,” said Alondra Campos, a visitor who’s now a junior at Pahokee High School. 

Download broadcast-ready media assets detailing the group's visit to Seattle. 

UW Medicine