Fueled By Death Cast Ep 136 - COFFEE, SCIENCE, AND SPACE

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"To make sure the science happens, something they can truly, deeply learn from, and something that they can take with them for the rest of their lives." Ingrid Moon, NASA distinguished STEM educator






Death Wish Coffee is going back to space! In 2018, we sent our coffee to the International Space Station to help fuel the astronauts as they perform various science experiments in space. Now, thanks to iLEAD schools and DreamUp, our coffee is part of an experiment created by students at iLEAD schools that will be sent up to the space station for the astronauts to work on.

The basic idea of the experiment is to test if coffee can help kill bacteria in your mouth in microgravity. We went out to the schools in California to talk with the facilitators, administrators, and the students involved in the experiment. 

Hear from iLEAD school founders Amber Raskin and Dawn Evenson, Kathleen Fredette the Director of STEM initiatives, former CEO of DreamUp Carie Lemack, learners Presley Radford, Kallie Verkouteren, Skyler Verkouteren, Emily Barragan, Luke Rigdon, Finton Harwood, Connor Raskin, Isobel Salters, Braden Hall and more. 
Death Wish Coffee is proud to help fuel the next generation of science and space exploration, and to partner with incredible organizations like iLead schools and DreamUp.

This story isn't over, as the experiment will be sent to the International Space Station and then return to Earth after the astronauts work on it, and then the iLEAD school learners will compare the results.

Follow the story of Death Wish Coffee in space at deathwishcoffee.com/space


Speaker 1: iLEAD. It's an acronym, five letter acronym. International leadership, entrepreneurial development, arts and design thinking. And those are kind of the five pillars of the way we do education.

Speaker 2: My name is Amber Raskin and I am founder of iLEAD Schools and CEO of iLEAD Schools Development.

Speaker 3: And I'm Dawn Evanson. I'm founder of iLEAD Schools and CEO of iLEAD California.

Speaker 2: What we are is a culture. What we are providing is a culture and a mindset, and it's a very different culture and mindset than what school has been traditionally. So when we are interviewing for any position or talking even to kids and parents, we want to make sure that we're setting them up for success by letting them know who and what we are and what we're about and what matters to us and that is culture and mindset. And the culture mindset that we have, which is that things are open. Our mission statement is free to think, inspired to lead, free to think, free to speak your mind, free to try things.

Speaker 1: Well, if you guys remember the work that you did in school oftentimes, whether you know it or not, it ended up in the trash can at the end of the day. Right?

Jeff: Oh yeah, of course.

Speaker 1: Well, that's the opposite of authentic learning, right? Learning should have a purpose. It should have an authentic audience.

Jeff: And it puts a practicality on again, kind of what you were talking about earlier with traditional schooling you're taught to sit quietly, not ask questions, do the thing. And so many times I remember being in school and how many times did I have to write a paper on something that I'm thinking about or creating and that's the end of it. The paper is the end of it. I'd get a C plus and it's over.

Speaker 1: Yeah.

Jeff: That's really exciting that they're doing the same thing, but then coming to a space and being like, "all right."

Speaker 1: Making it happen.

Jeff: Make it actually exist.

Speaker 2: Well, or even the making of it is not the end game. The making of it is part of the journey.

Jeff: Yeah.

Speaker 2: As opposed to remember how we would do, learn everything there is about a cell, now make a cell. As opposed to sometimes it's the end game, but sometimes it's the thing that fuels the learning because you're making something and then you go, "Oh that didn't work out. Now I have more questions about that." So now I have to dig in the content. So it's a flip from end game to process.

Jeff: These kids loves school.

Speaker 1: They do.

Jeff: They do want to be here. I never wanted to be in school when I was in the public school system and it's so inspiring to talk to these kids and they're just like, "I love ... This is my favorite class or this is my favorite teacher and I just, I can't wait to come to school." We're talking, it's pretty much almost summer vacation so they're all really excited about summer vacation.

Speaker 2: Yeah but they're like that all year long. They really do love coming to school. They love all the things that they do. They love having the ability to be free, to be themselves and to socialize with their friends, and it's not all about sit down and structure and be quiet all the time and the rigidity that that you see in a traditional school.

Jeff: Yeah.

Speaker 2: And that's really what attracted me to it, both as a facilitator and as a mother who needed something a little different for her son. So it's really great to see them come to school and be just so enthusiastic and excited all the time.

Speaker 3: And the fact that we have real scientists speaking into this and then actually helping to guide the kids is unheard of, but that's where the magic is too, getting those experts connected to the kids, building those relationships and the kids being able to say, "Oh that over there, I didn't even know that job existed. How did you do that cool job?" And then to get the story from Al and who you're going to talk about, Jacob, both of those guys came from very low means.

Jeff: Yeah.

Speaker 3: They're self-made and they're so anxious to share who they are, what they've done. And that was year two. You were just so generous with, here, let me share. Even though you've done a lot amazing stuff.

Speaker 2: Well you're the same way. But I would also add to what you were saying too, is we're engaging kids that aren't just the science nerds. And I say that as someone who wishes who aspires to be a science nerd, right?

Jeff: Totally.

Speaker 2: But people, if you're going to do this project, well, how are you going to communicate it to others? How are you going to let people know that this is important? So you need people who are engaged in social media outreach or in mission patch design. It's not just the kids who are like, "I love space cause it's sciency." It's kids who thought, "I didn't ever think about being a fashion designer in space, but astronauts have to wear clothes. Oh, maybe I do want to be part of this."

Jeff: Right.

Speaker 1: It's funny, I'll walk into iLEAD and there'll be a class of them. They'll be flying foamy prandles down the hallways.

Jeff: Oh my gosh.

Speaker 1: And it's so cool. They think I'm some sort of hero or something, which is really sad. Get a real role model kid. But they're awesome.

Jeff: Yeah.

Speaker 1: There's so many things that they don't know they can't do this. Right?

Jeff: Right.

Speaker 1: And if they listen to us adults they're never going to do anything new because we always tell them, "Don't do this. Don't do that. Don't do it. Don't waste your time with that. Don't go do this." Right? You got to stop. And the good thing is they don't listen.

Jeff: Right, right.

Speaker 1: The iLEAD kids are awesome. And Kathleen, she's working on her third space station experiment. Who does that?

Jeff: Yeah. It's incredible.

Speaker 1: High school students doing ... When I was going through high school, there was no way I was going to get an experiment that went into space.

Jeff: Right. Isabel, you were part of the original Coffee experiment.

Isabel: Yes. yes, I was.

Jeff: Can you talk a little bit about that because we are so excited that we're part of Coffee, this Coffee experiment that's being sent to the space station.

Isabel: Yeah, so Coffee 1.0 was the original project. Same concept as now, but there were a few bumps in the road.

Jeff: As always in science.

Isabel: Exactly.

Speaker 3: The first experiment that we sent up was last what, fall?

Isabel: December. Yeah.

Speaker 3: December. So we had originally chosen a different coffee company and the kids did the experiment optimization led by Dr. Cohen and Dr. Lux at UCLA School of Dentistry. So the kids have to have an expert enrolled in their project, so that's one of the requirements.

Jeff: Right.

Speaker 3: So they had done all the experiment optimization, up it went.

Isabel: One incredible thing first of all, was being able to like know your project is going up to space. That was absolutely insane. But the second part was being able to actually be there and watch the rocket go up. Be there for the launch and also get to go around NASA. Get to talk to different people, watch also because we weren't the only ones there giving presentations. There were some other schools. So getting to see their projects and getting ideas from their projects.

Jeff: I know that you do a lot with the science program.

Speaker 6: Yup.

Jeff: And you actually were part of the initial experiment with the coffee going to space. Can you talk a little bit about that?

Speaker 6: Yeah, so Kathleen had approached me I think it was late summer of last year, and she came to me with this experiment and the opportunity to send it to the ISS, which I thought was amazing at the time.

Jeff: Right?

Speaker 6: Right, who gets to send an experiment to the ISS.

Jeff: It's incredible.

Speaker 6: And so of course I jumped right on. I have done ... Similar things it before. I don't know if you know what SSEP is?

Jeff: I don't, can you explain it to me?

Speaker 6: Yeah, the student spaceflight experimentation program. So that is run partially by NASA and I think funded by NASA. And so I had participated in that in the past and that's a nationwide thing. So I had a little bit of familiarity with it. But I bring that up because I had done that before and I had designed my own experiments and this was a project where the experiment was already created and selected for flight. So it wasn't going through that process.

Speaker 2: And then the experiment didn't go exactly as planned. And that's part of science.

Jeff: That is science.

Speaker 2: And so we realized we need to do it again. And that's when we reached out to you guys.

Jeff: which is an absolutely ... I still can't believe that we have this opportunity.

Speaker 2: Right?

Jeff: It's incredible. This is so exciting. I can't thank you enough for the opportunity.

Speaker 2: Well we should thank Nicole [Staut [00:08:06] as well.

Jeff: Definitely.

Speaker 2: And a former NASA astronaut who connected us, who also believes in art and believes in education and has done incredible work. And so grateful for the connection because we didn't know what you guys were gonna say. You're thinking, we're going to call up this coffee company.

Isabel: Out of the blue.

Speaker 2: They gonna think why do we want to talk to these people, but you wanted to talk to us and we're incredibly grateful.

Isabel: And in a different kind of way, we're actually kind of lucky because this way we've been awarded to really go through, do more tests. So we've been working actually in the lab over in the high school a lot.

Speaker 7: We use black coffee to kill this ... We have to ... We are trying to see how well black coffee Killed Streptococcus Mutans, AkA plaque, which is a bacteria in your mouth, in space.

Speaker 6: So all right, here's some background.

Jeff: Yes

Speaker 6: Black coffee here on Earth kill ... And it's just black coffee. No sugar added, no cream, kills the bacteria on your teeth, Streptococcus mutans or plaque.

Jeff: Or plaque.

Speaker 6: And we want to know if it has the same effect on space and if it does it more or if it does it less.

Jeff: Right. Wow. Wow. And what would you think would be the practical application if it does it more or less?

Speaker 6: Well, astronauts already drink coffee on the ISS.

Jeff: They do.

Speaker 6: So we want to know ... And tooth decay and bone decay in microgravity is much faster than it is on earth.

Jeff: Wow.

Speaker 6: And so if astronauts were to drink black coffee, it could seriously help their teeth.

Speaker 7: So to send it up into space, we're using this thing called a mix stick.

Jeff: Which I saw a little bit of earlier.

Speaker 7: Yes, it's basically a tube.

Jeff: It's just a tube. Right?

Speaker 7: Yes.

Jeff: But that's going to allow the experiment to kind of be sent but also be utilized, right?

Speaker 7: Yes. It's like experiment in a tube ... The way we're doing it, I think we're using a type three because it needs three segments. I think that's ...

Jeff: No, I think you're right. I think that's how it was explained to me.

Speaker 7: Yeah. So in one chamber we have the Streptococcus mutans. In another we have a liquid that'll activate it, and in the third one we'll have the coffee.

Jeff: Both of you are like at the forefront of space exploration like we are, we are on the cusp as humanity of becoming an interplanetary species, which is exciting as it is. That was science fiction. Literally that sentence was science fiction just a couple years ago and now it's becoming a reality. And both of you are doing things to further that. Is that mind blowing at all?

Speaker 2: It is. It honestly, it doesn't ... You don't realize it until you're at NASA Ames or at the Kennedy Space Center and you literally take a second and you go, "Oh my God, what? What am I doing here of all people?" I shouldn't be here. I'm not a student in school. There should be some sort of incredible scientist here, but ... And it's just kind of like you have to take a moment and you're like, "Oh my God. Genuinely how did this happen?"

Jeff: Because of iLEAD. This is the incredible opportunity that you guys get and you can't belittle it. You both are scientists. You're both working with scientists orbiting the earth right now on the International Space Station.

Isabel: Yeah.

Jeff: And that is absolutely incredible to think about. You guys are working on the coffee experiment?

Speaker 8: Yes. That's our coffee that's going to space.

Jeff: What does it feel like to be ... Now I'm going to call you both scientists because you are. To be scientists working on an experiment, going to space?

Speaker 8: It's really fun. I feel good about it.

Jeff: Yeah?

Speaker 8: And Stuff. Yeah.

Jeff: Yeah? Is it exciting?

Speaker 3: It's more than just asking a question and then doing an experiment to find an answer. There's an actual purpose behind the question that they're asking because it affects the future of space travel in some way. And it becomes really much more meaningful to them and whatever they're doing here isn't going to be thrown away. They're able to write papers or continue this process. In fact, we in our optimization, we found that Death Wish Coffee does not kill the bacteria as readily as the previous coffee that we had used.

Jeff: Oh really?

Speaker 3: And that makes me wonder what is it about the way that you brew the coffee or maybe the beans that you use or who knows what in that process makes it different. And if it's not killing the bacteria in your mouth, maybe it's not harming the bacteria in your gut. Maybe there's all kinds of other benefits that that Death Wish Coffee has that other coffees maybe don't have. And I'm not just saying that as a plug. Seriously, this is an important valid question, not only about your coffee but about the kinds of coffee we would send to space, or if we want to use coffee as an antiseptic in your mouth, This is not the right coffee for that.

Jeff: Right.

Speaker 3: But it might be a better coffee in other respects for your health. Or for astronaut health.

Jeff: That is incredibly interesting and exciting to hear because when we developed this coffee, we use a blend of Arabica and robust of beans and a lot of coffee companies do not do that. And so that could be some of the factor and we pride ourselves on a very low acid coffee and that does not hurt your gut. And that could be the fuel for space exploration that's not going to harm the astronaut in a long space travel. I love this, I love it.

Speaker 3: Right. You can drink the coffee but you still have to brush your teeth. Sorry.

Jeff: Exactly. And what's wrong with that? That's fine. At Death Wish Coffee, we're so excited that we're part of a student run experiment that is being sent to the International Space Station that kids ... I call them learners, I call them kids. They're scientists working with scientists in space all because of iLEAD. All because it was like, can we do this? Yes, of course we can. How will you do it? Let's figure it out. It's incredible.

Speaker 2: And finding the right partners to, right?

Jeff: Oh of course.

Speaker 2: So it's iLEAD and it's Dream Up. and together that's become a really powerful force for our kids

Jeff: Of course.

Speaker 3: But we were starting out and it was hard to kind of get into the flow of things and we were very fortunate that Dream Up came along and was doing a similar thing. And so we jumped on board with them and have worked very collaboratively with them to sort of create this project and make this possible for so many of our students and so many other schools as well.

Jeff: All this opportunity, this incredible thing. And it really stems from this team that I'm talking to right here. And I want to talk about kind of your roles in iLEAD and in Dream Up and also how that led to ... And I can't even believe that I get to keep saying this. Student-based experiments sent to space.

Speaker 3: Right? right?

Jeff: Can we talk about the journey to make this happen between the two of you?

Speaker 3: You bet, you bet.

Speaker 2: Do you want to start, or do you want me to?

Speaker 3: Yeah, you go. Well I think I have to start when I was in sixth grade, because we were talking about education today.

Speaker 2: Okay.

Speaker 3: So my sixth grade, sorry, sixth grade when I was six years old, when I was in first grade, my teacher, Mrs. Shawl, Alice Shawl wheeled in a TV car. This is back when you had to wheel them back in and put on the TV because we were going to watch the first space shuttle land and it was on my birthday.

Jeff: Oh my gosh.

Speaker 3: And I remember, because you know when you're six years old, you assume everything's about you, particularly if it's on your birthday?

Jeff: Yeah, yeah.

Speaker 3: And Space Shuttle Columbia glided in and landed. And I thought, well this is what I want to do. I love space. And I'll never forget that because it had such an impact on me. And it led me to go to space camp four times.

Jeff: Really?

Speaker 3: I was a space camp counselor. Oh yeah.

Jeff: I wanted to go so bad and it killed me I never got to go.

Speaker 3: It's so awesome. You can still go, you should go, you should go.

Jeff: I should, I should. I should.

Speaker 3: It's awesome. And it made me realize that it just changed my life.

Speaker 2: Right.

Speaker 3: And when I thought about what was possible, and that's what led me ultimately to Dream Up and to Kathleen and to all the kids here at iLEAD and letting them realize what's possible.

Speaker 2: Right, right. I was a teacher in my own classroom before iLEAD, and I was teaching math and science and I applied to be an airborne astronomy ambassador with a mission called Sophia. It's a NASA mission that is a 747 that's been completely gutted and hacked and it has on the side a large garage door and mid-flight the garage door opens and there's this huge, 10 foot infrared telescope in there. Well, I applied really because I was trying to find a way to bring more impactful things into my classroom.

Speaker 2: They flew educators and then you go back into your classroom and you have a way to connect what's happening right now with kids. And also the crew would come in and the manager of Sophia, the director came and spoke to my kids and so it gave the kids an idea of this is something you could do. That's how I fell in love with aerospace. And then eventually that was like the very first thing. And then eventually fast forward, we're doing projects that actually sent to space. I can't get that out.

Speaker 3: Yeah, that's how we met.

Speaker 2: That's how we met.

Speaker 3: Because she wanted to find a new way to send student research into space. And at the time I was running a company called Dream Up and that's exactly what we did.

Speaker 2: Right, right.

Speaker 3: And we said, yeah, we'll work with you to make it happen.

Speaker 2: I really want to create a project that will be able to allow kids to access this very difficult content in a way that right where they're at. So right now, the content tends to be accessible only for the sorted and selected. The kids that are the sharpest, the kids that can write really well, the kids that are already doing well academically. Is there a way that we create a project that'll hit kids who have already checked out of school, who've lost their curiosity? Is there a way to go back in and go space, science in a way that will just dig in, grab them, pull them back into their love of learning? Because a lot of kids just hate learning. It gets pounded out of them.

Speaker 3: And I was looking for educators who wanted to think outside the box and figure out what's the best way to get into classrooms so that it works for teachers and it works for learners? Because we can have all the opportunities in the world, but if a teacher can't use it, then it's not really useful and it's not going to make an impact.

Speaker 2: Right.

Jeff: And that's so inspiring. I loved space from an early age. I was very, very into science and space exploration. I've told this story before on the show where my favorite book as a kid was Good Night Moon. And it wasn't just because it was that. It was, my mom or dad would read that story to me and then I would sit on my window sill and look at the moon and just dream of the humanity that had got to go there. I didn't get to learn a lot about it.

Jeff: A little bit, but I love the ethos of iLEAD because if a kid wants to learn something, you make it happen. The answer's yes.

Speaker 2: Right, right.

Jeff: And that's incredible. And what's also incredible, and we talk about it a lot on the science segment on this show, is that it's known that we have an International Space Station. It's known that things are sent to space, but a lot of people don't understand the amount of science that is actually done in space. And even when you break that down, people then go, "Oh yeah. It's probably some crazy mad scientist in a lab somewhere creating something that they're sending to space and then the astronauts are dealing with it." But it's inspiring to think that we have the next generation that these learners, these children who are coming up with an experiment and then because of the two of you are being able to send it to space. That's incredible.

Speaker 2: It is pretty incredible.

Speaker 3: We're pretty lucky. And we should say, there's teams of people that we both have worked with and work with that make this all possible. But I think everyone recognizes that like you said, sitting there reading a book about a moon and then looking at the moon, that connection is so important.

Speaker 2: Right.

Speaker 3: So for me, one of my favorite things is going to a rocket launch and bringing students and saying, "Your experiment's on that. In fact you touch that experiment. So in a way part of you is going to space today too."

Jeff: Yeah.

Speaker 3: And I think about that because I've often touched one of the experiments and I'm like, I'm part of these going up too. And how cool that is. I couldn't imagine that little six year old who saw space shuttle Columbia land, letting her know that she's going to have part of her go up into space too is just incredible.

Speaker 2: Right, right. Basically it's making sure all the science gets taken care of, that the learning happens, that it becomes something that kids can put in their portfolio. It's something they can really, truly, deeply learn from and take something with them for the rest of their lives. Get them excited about science, get them excited about doing lab work because lab work can be really tedious. And we've even had some moments in our lab doing optimization for this project where you just ... If I have to squeeze one more pipette thing with my thumb, my thumb's going to fall off and I'm just going to throw it, right?

Jeff: Right.

Speaker 2: But they really learn like how to love doing all these different moving parts that I don't think normally happen in a biology lab in a high school. Especially in middle school because a lot of our kids are younger.

Jeff: It's almost the end of school year. Are you excited about summer at all, or are you going to miss school?

Speaker 8: Yes, I am going to a place called Astro camp in the summer.

Jeff: What? Can you talk about that? What's that like?

Speaker 8: Oh that? That's just basically you learn about space. You launch bottle rockets, they also have blacksmithing classes. They have a giant swimming pool.

Jeff: Awesome.

Speaker 8: And a lot of other core stuff that you can do there.

Jeff: Have you been before?

Speaker 8: Yes.

Jeff: That is so, so cool. So you basically get to do science through the summer.

Speaker 8: Yes.

Jeff: You're my favorite kid ever.

Speaker 8: Thank you.

Jeff: What is your favorite part about being a part of this school?

Speaker 6: I just loved the freedom that it gives me.

Jeff: Yeah?

Speaker 6: I had heard you talking earlier about how if a kid wants to learn about space, they can learn about space and that's really what I'm doing. I feel like ... I've been interested in space since I was God like six, maybe younger.

Jeff: How come?

Speaker 6: That's a good question. I don't really know where it came from. I just have always been interested in it. When I was younger, I used to want to work for a study, which is, yeah search for extraterrestrial intelligence.

Jeff: Yeah.

Speaker 6: And right now I'm pursuing being an astrophysicist.

Jeff: Really?

Speaker 6: Yeah. That stuff just really interests me.

Jeff: So I'm going to then ask, then you must like school because there's a lot of school involved in astrophysics.

Speaker 6: A lot of math and physics. Yeah. And I take IB math and physics, which is like AP.

Jeff: Wow. It's exciting that you guys are part of science that's not only going to space, but that's fueling our astronauts in their endeavors for space exploration. I got to ask, now I know you're only in fifth grade, but you guys are actual scientists and you're working with scientists in space. Would you guys go to space if they called you up ... NASA called you up tomorrow and was like, "We need fifth grade astronauts and we need you to go to space." Would you do it?

Speaker 8: Yes.

Jeff: Yeah?

Speaker 8: Yes.

Jeff: Really?

Speaker 8: Yeah, I would.

Jeff: Really? If you had the opportunity tomorrow, NASA calls you up and says, "We need you to go to space tomorrow." Would you do it? Would you go to space?

Isabel: Honestly I think I would just to able to experience it and just ... I think it would also be kind of cool to be able to look down at the earth. That's just kind of something that's kind of always ... I've never had a dream to be an astronaut or something. But if you were given the chance to go up to space and just kind of see it, I couldn't say no to that.

Jeff: Yeah?

Speaker 6: Yeah. I feel the same. I like roller coasters and it'd just be a crazy roller coaster with a really cool ending.

Jeff: Right?

Speaker 6: But it definitely would be ... I think it'd be an opportunity that almost anybody would pick up and they'd be like, yeah, I'll definitely do that if given the opportunity. Like I've never aspired to be an astronaut, but if I was given the opportunity that said, you have to be in Kennedy Space Center tomorrow to go up on space, I would definitely take the opportunity.

Jeff: To be a kid and working on something that's going to be sent to space that astronauts are going to work on, it's like ...

Speaker 3: To be an adult.

Jeff: How exciting is that? Throughout all of NASA, how much did coffee help you? Did it [inaudible 00:24:09] you going?

Speaker 1: If it was a five cup day, it was a pretty intense day. There were some days that were seven cups.

Jeff: Oh my gosh.

Speaker 1: Right? So yeah, coffee ... Most of NASA runs on coffee. It really does.

Jeff: That is good to hear. That is good to hear. Kyle thank you so much for talking.

Speaker 1: All Right Jeff.

Jeff: Awesome. Thank you.

Speaker 1: Thank you for supporting iLEAD. Those students are awesome.

Jeff: Yes. I love the entire organization.

Speaker 1: Right?

Jeff: It's so great. I think what iLEAD is doing and what you guys have built is needed. It's imperative. It is what we need to be gravitating towards. And you guys are doing a great job keeping going in that and keep ... Like you said, you're going to keep doing it. There's no reason to ... It's not just for your own kids, it's for everybody to be included in this, facilitators learners, the parents, the communities, everything. And I really, I cannot wait to see what is in the future for iLEAD. And I can't thank you guys enough for taking time and talking to me about this today.

Speaker 3: Thank you so much for being here.

Speaker 2: Thank you for your partnership.

Speaker 3: Absolutely.

Speaker 2: Thank you for taking the time to tour our schools and thank you for interviewing us today.

Jeff: Excellent.