Space Chile Challenge Is Your Chance to Spice Up Learning At Home!

When I saw this learning opportunity, I was SO AGcited (get it? AG + excited, it happens a lot around here)! I am a bit of skeptic, however, so I emailed this Mr. Jacob Torres to see if it was “legit”. Lo and behold we hit the educational AGtivity jackpot with this great challenge for the whole family!

Meet Jacob Torres and learn about the challenge from Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden!

The Space Chile Challenge:

  • Is open to various ages and learning levels (from easy to advanced).
  • Offers access to the experts to ask questions and post updates.
  • Provides many supporting links and educational resources so you can dive in as deep as you want.
  • Is an indoor challenge so you can do it anywhere.
  • Requires problem-solving and scientific observation to solve a challenge.
  • Works with UNM scientists to test your results (growing with a purpose).
  • Highlights the awesomeness of New Mexico chile. (Sorry Colorado, NASA loves us best, and yes, we spell chile correctly.)

I started growing plants with my mom at school as a kid. We did a little zip lock bag with a wet paper towel, added some seeds and would watch these amazing plants grow. I didn’t know then that I was developing skills that would embody my career later in life. More than anything I want to find ways to give that to the next generation of kids growing up. Especially in New Mexico where I know we feel like big things may not be for us. I’ve surprised myself with how far I’ve been able to come, and they all can do it too! – Jacob Torres

A special bonus from this project is that Mr. Torres is New Mexico grown (shoutout to Española & Santa Fe)! He developed his love of plants and growing from his mom, Gloria Valencia, a 40-year veteran teacher and his first-grade teacher, as well as from helping his grandma in her garden. This story is proof that you are never too young to learn about ag!

Here is what you need to get started:

Learn the project specifics from Fairchild Tropical Botanical Gardens. All the project options focus on indoor growing but you get to decide how you want to grow. An easier version would be to grow in soil or maybe you are more up for the challenge of hydroponics in a cup!

Stay current and communicate with the researchers via Facebook: Join group (if you have parent permission)

Chimayo pepper plant growing in the homemade hydroponic cup. (See how to make your own hydroponic cup here). Well played using a Star Wars cup Mr. Torres, well played! (Insert slow clap here!)

Meet Jacob Torres and learn how he became a researcher for NASA : You should learn as much as you can from reliable resources as it might give you ideas for your own research as well as a better understanding of best practices so you don’t have to make as many mistakes!

Meet the Scientist In His Own Words

New Mexico Chile In Space in the Albuquerque Journal

Space Chile Challenge: NASA researcher sends New Mexico chile seeds around the globe

Learn More About Growing In Space! Learn about VEGGIE and the Advanced Plant Habitat (APH) on the International Space Station (ISS) where the team of scientists Mr. Torres works with are growing crops to eventually supplement astronauts’ diets.

Jacob’s suggestions on keeping track of your research: “The level of which I’m sure will depend on the level of students. For example, younger grades will do great just growing the plant/s and higher grades may want to get deeper into the experiment and documentation. What I use as a guideline in my research is NCERA-101 guidelines for conducting plant growth experiments in controlled environments. They would do their best to fulfill this data by recording it in a notebook. Not all of it can be captured, but a best attempt is worthy. When the day comes to show me how they grew Space Chile, they will have it recorded.”

Request your free NM Chile Seeds: Please Note: Parent permission is required any time you are providing personal information such as your mailing address!

Send an email with your mailing address to or click here to register:

Important dates and timing: It takes about 88 days to grow green chile and about 130 days to grow red chile indoors. (Yes, they grow on the same plant!) Green chile will turn red as it ripens. Please note: The last date that UNM will receive and test pepper samples is February 16, 2021. You just pick the one you think is the hottest pepper and send it with your name, address, and contact information to:

Space Chile Challenge Attn: David Hanson
UNM Biology, Castetter Hall 1480
MSC03-2020, 219 Yale Blvd NE
Albuquerque, NM 87131-0001

Published by nmagintheclassroom

New Mexico Agriculture in the Classroom (NMAITC) is a non-profit educational outreach program. The purpose of NMAITC is to educate the general public, with an emphasis on K-12 students and educators, about the importance of agriculture.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: