THE ORIGIN AND HISTORY OF TEKNA-THEOS Inc.
The corporate entity TEKNA-THEOS Inc. was the synthesis of a science teacher’s past research and industrial experience, a desire to promote student interest into science and engineering career paths, and an unsuccessful pitch for support from a major defense contractor. This individual had recently begun teaching a small Christian school in Orange Park, Florida.
Having worked in several different labs (oncology, endocrinology, environmental testing, epidemiology, etc.) while obtaining degrees in chemistry and biochemistry, this teacher became interested both in the remodeling and maintenance activities of the skeletal system. The similarities between osteoporosis and the bone loss suffered by astronauts piqued his interest. Research has shown that microgravity induced bone loss is the primary deterrent to prolonged manned space flight, and provided the basis for the company’s mission.
After leaving academia TEKNA-THEOS Inc.’s sponsor worked in industry for two process chemical companies for about eight years. In this environment he gained an appreciation for mechanical engineering, and fluid mechanics. It is this background of biochemistry and engineering, and an interest in America’s manned space program that has fueled the idea for TEKNA-THEOS Inc.
The original concept discussed in the spring of 2001 was to have a school biotechnology club whose purpose was to design a medical payload for space flight. Recognizing the limitations high school students would have as to basic engineering skills and a working knowledge of doing business with NASA, their initial goal was to obtain a corporate engineering sponsor that already had ties to the Aerospace industry. In the fall of 2001 a preliminary meeting was held with a community relations representative from Northrop Grumman. This spokesman, Ms. Suzanne McQuiston, expressed interest in our ideas, but informed us that Northrop Grumman could not support a religious organization. She recommended that we incorporate ourselves as an entity separate from the school in order to qualify for funding.
During the fall of 2001 and the spring of 2002 students continued preliminary designs, researched basic principles of engineering, did medical library database searches, and made their initial calculations. The first group of seniors wrote their final report, graduated, and passed the torch on to their classmates.
From the ashes of the first unsuccessful funding campaign, TEKNA-THEOS Inc. emerged. Incorporation as a non-profit company was completed during the summer of 2002. TEKNA-THEOS Inc. was formed by a teacher and staffed by students, whose goal is to design, build, and test a bioreactor for studying bone-forming cells (osteoblasts) in microgravity. Their mission statement of TEKNA-THEOS Inc. is “To better educate High School students through space-related biochemical and engineering research.” It was hoped that this body of work would help provide a better understanding of both bone degeneration in space and osteoporosis on Earth.
TEKNA THEOS was organized into three divisions (Cell Biology, Engineering, and Marketing), each managed by an upperclassman, and having the following functions:
- Cell Biology- Obtain an understanding of cell processes and bone maintenance; develop a working knowledge of osteoblast function and regulation; and design the experiment and create all protocols.
- Engineering- Learn about hydraulics, pump design, power supplies, heating and cooling elements, sensors, data collection; assemble and test bioreactor that will carry out the recommended experiment in microgravity.
- Marketing- Establish corporate and community relationships; generate technical and financial support; establish a relationship with NASA; to archive all work for publication, coordinate all company efforts.
In the fall of 2002 students traveled to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. There they met scientists from the Florida Space Grant Consortium and Dr. Sammuel Durrance, the Director of the Florida Space Research Institute to discuss their bioreactor ideas. Dr. Durrance is a former astronaut and astrophysicist who flew on two Shuttle missions in the 1990’s. The students got to also meet Dr. John Brandenberg, an astrophysicist, and Dr. Jaydeep Mukherjee, the administrator for the Florida Space Grant Consortium.
In February 2003 two of TEKNA-THEOS Inc.’s students and the sponsor were invited to attend an Advanced Student Workshop sponsored by the Florida Space Grant Consortium and the University of North Florida. This powerfully memorable workshop was held in Cocoa Beach at the Hilton and unfortunately occurred the weekend of the Columbia accident. There protein samples were prepared for future flight to the International Space Station via the Space Shuttle.
In the spring of 2003 TEKNA-THEOS Inc. was the first high school organization to receive a FLORIDA SPACE RESEARCH AND EDUCATION GRANT totaling $18,640 from the Florida Space Grant Consortium (FSGC). The FSGC is part of the Florida Space Research Institute (FSRI), whose purpose is to support Florida-based space industry, research and education.
During the summer of 2003 students traveled to meet with the primary subcontractor, a University of California Irvine laboratory located at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama. There the student generated Preliminary Requirements Document (PRD) was reviewed and submitted a concept drawing for the primary subcontractor. The students toured molecular biology and x-ray crystallography facilities at the University of Alabama Huntsville. The high point of the visit was meeting one of NASA’s founding fathers, Ernst Stuhlinger. He was Werner Von Braun’s right hand man during the 1960’s and served as NASA’s first chief scientist. All company personnel were honored to meet one of the original German rocket scientists, and pioneers in the field of rocketry.
This fall TEKNA-THEOS Inc. received a second smaller grant to develop a 10 week course for 8 th graders that surveys manned space flight history and research. This module, Aerospace Based Research and History (ABRAH), utilized a compilation of space related material and the NASA video loan library at Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. Students watched several historic moments in the US manned space program. The program goal was to challenge students to take an active role in America’s manned Space Program, especially the goal of sending man to Mars.
Early in the fall students began group projects on one of several NASA competitions. These NSIPs (NASA Student Involvement Programs) encourage students to learn by inquiry and investigation. The 7 th graders designed and built devices in the Aerospace Engineering Technology Challenge, while 8 th through 12 th graders chose from the following: Journalism, Building a Bioreactor, Mission to Mars and Beyond, Space Flight Opportunities, or Radio Jove. These activities spark genuine interest in Science and Engineering. Currently we have two 8 th grade teams designing experiments to be carried out on our future bioreactor.
On November 18 th local businesswoman, Sherrie Porter, Congressman Cliff Stearns’ aide, addressed the students and brought a greeting from the Congressman. He recently gave TEKNA-THEOS Inc. an outstanding letter of support for use in fundraising. Also presentations were made by Dr. Jaydeep Mukherjee (administrator of the Florida Space Grant Consortium), and Dr. John Brandenburg from the Kennedy Space Center. These Astronomers and Astrophysicists represented the Florida Space Research Institute and made presentations for the K-5 th, and for the 6 th-12 th grades.
In December all students focused on the Centennial of manned flight beginning with the Wright Brothers at Kitty Hawk, N.C. Before the Christmas break, all 7 th-12 th grade students conducted a NASA related protein crystal growth experiment.
In January 2004 six students and a teacher were again invited to attend an Advanced Student Workshop sponsored by the Florida Space Grant Consortium and the University of North Florida. Here students learned about the importance of molecular biology and protein crystal growth in microgravity.
In April 2004 students traveled again to Marshall Space Flight Center to assist in the construction of a working prototype bioreactor to be used for bench testing. While on site students filmed and interviewed various key NASA personnel and discussed various emerging technologies related to bioregeneration and biotechnology. During April TEKNA-THEOS Inc was also acknowledged as an Exemplary Program for 2003-2004 by the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI).
In May of 2004 TEKNA-THEOS Inc. again received one of fourteen Florida Space Research and Education Grants awarded throughout the state. This grant ($15,000) will be used t continue the day to day operations. Also in May TEKNA-THEOS Inc. along with the primary contractor, Moseley Technical Services Incorporated (MTSI) responded to a NASA NRA with a 100 page proposal fro a four year, two shuttle flight program. Near the end of May Marshall Space Flight Center loaned a demonstration model single thermal enclosure system (STES) to the company. This hardware replaces a shuttle middeck locker, will physically house the bioreactor in the shuttle, and provides heating, cooling, and power systems.
In addition to building the bioreactor, TEKNA-THEOS Inc. has created an alliance with Edward Waters College (EWC) of Jacksonville Florida. Both TEKNA-THEOS Inc. and EWC plan to utilize tissue culture facilities at EWC to complete ground testing prior to flight of the bioreactor.
One of the most exciting programs, the Private Pilots Ground School began in the fall of 2004. This program is being taught by a certified flight instructor (and a retired Navy aviator) at very low cost to students. The current class consists of nine students, four of their parents, and one teacher. This is a dual enrollment program carried out at the high school, and done in cooperation with the Florida Community College of Jacksonville (FCCJ). Qualified students successfully completing this course will earn three hours of college credit. Students have conducted numerous orientation flights, photographed their school while in flight, and have participated with the Experimental Aviation Association’s FLY-IN in early November.
In mid October 2004 the company received their prototype bioreactor at a handoff meeting at the Orange Park Christian Academy. Three newspapers and two local television stations covered the event. Present were local community leaders and members of the Engineering team that supports TEKNA-THEOS Inc. (NASA contractors from Marshall Space Flight Center).
In January 2005 the company again received attention upon the receipt of a gift from the estate of Lydia Nocar in the amount of $50,000. Three newspapers and one television station covered the announcement. Some of these funds were used in the creation of the new TEKNA-THEOS Inc. website (www.teknatheos.org ) by the internet specialists of Jacksonville Beach, Interchanges.com.
In February 2005 the company carried out an Aviation /Engineering themed “minimester” to inspire students concerning future careers. On February 24 th, fifteen students traveled to the Naval Air Station Jacksonville DEPOT to tour the F-18 and P-3 maintenance facilities. Additionally the students were afforded the opportunity to take-off and land P-3s via the Navy’s flight simulators. Students greatly enjoyed flying the real Navy flight ‘sim.’
On February 25 th the same fifteen students attended the Engineering Day Competition sponsored by the US Army Corp of Engineers- Jacksonville District and the local Society of American Military Engineers. Twenty-seven teams from area high schools competed in various engineering related events. One of the TEKNA-THEOS Inc./OPCA teams finished 2 nd overall and first in the egg-automobile collision event. Students were given an opportunity to meet representatives from several engineering companies as well as five of Florida’s engineering universities. Student’s photos appeared in local newspapers.
On March first TEKNA-THEOS Inc. sponsored a “Space Day” for area schools to increase student interest in the U.S. aviation and manned space flight programs. Approximately 360 students attended the event which took place at the Orange Park Christian Academy. There students heard speakers from Marshall Space Flight Center, Kennedy Space Center, and the Northeast Florida Association of Rocketry. Students also competed in two engineering type events. Trophies were awarded to the winning teams, and all events were carried out by TEKNA-THEOS Inc. personnel. Four newspapers and one television station covered the event.
On March 2nd to 4 th the Teacher and President of TEKNA-THEOS Inc. traveled with a student to Washington, D.C. There they called on various Congressmen and spoke to the offices of the Senators Martinez and Nelson, as well as speaking to six congressmen directly and many other legislative assistants. These individuals also called on the US House Committee on Science, subcommittee on Research in efforts to obtain middeck lockers for student research, and to seek a flight program from the US Congress. The teacher and student enjoyed the opportunity to petition Congress very much and look forward to obtaining the necessary funding to fly the TTI bioreactor in space.
TTI company participation is voluntary, and in our small school, we have grown from the original six students to about 25. Students submit individual and team efforts to various national science competitions. As seniors graduate, they remain involved by serving on the corporation’s Board of Directors. Currently there are six graduates ages 18-22 which comprise the Board of Directors. TEKNA-THEOS Inc. is committed to the completion of these projects, and uses as its motto: Colossians 3:23: “And whatsoever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men.