March madness arrived at Sabin Middle School Tuesday and almost didn't fit through the doors.

NASA chose Sabin to receive a piece of a space shuttle, under an initiative that awards old space artifacts to educational institutions for use in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) programs.

Winning the unusual prize created excitement worthy enough for a cheering squad.

"It's crazy that we're the ones to get it," said seventh-grader Jamie Skinner.

School leaders didn't know much about the object before it came.

"We don't know how big it is or where we'll put it. We know it weighs 200 pounds and fits on a pallet," said principal Sherry Kalbach.

"It's like Christmas - we don't know what's in the box."

Delivered by FedEx during lunchtime, the wooden crate - a leading edge of a wing - couldn't make it through the front doors and only squeezed through side doors after the center column was removed.

Many students yelled "awesome" as the piece of history was wheeled down the hallway and hoisted onto a table in the library, where staff and students gingerly touched it and chattered about what it meant.

Eighth-grader Micha Dixon said he thought it would be bigger.

"It's cold," he said. "I can't believe it's worth so much."

The value, according to NASA: $690,000.

"It looks like clay," Skinner chimed in.

The curved metal wing section gave little clues, with the exception of a tag with various numbers on it.

Teachers immediately started researching the codes.

Their orbiter portion is believed to have come from the Space Shuttle Columbia, which disintegrated on Feb. 1, 2003, when re-entering the Earth's atmosphere, killing all seven crew members.

"We pay a lot of attention to science, technology, engineering and math," Kalbach said, "and this donation allows students to see a big part of STEM up close and personal and experience it first-hand."

Tuesday's galactic event at Sabin, which is in Colorado Springs School District 11 at 3605 N. Carefree Circle, almost didn't happen.

Science department chairman and eighth-grade science teacher Jeannie Meredith submitted an application to NASA two years ago. Last month came word that Sabin was being awarded an artifact. Under the program, schools, museums or other educational organizations that have a STEM component are given space relics for free but must pay for shipping.

The delivery cost from Cape Canaveral, Fla., to Colorado Springs: $1,900.

And, "We have no money in our budget," Meredith said.

Another Sabin science teacher, Susan Rezzonico, used her connections to complete the NASA donation. Her fianc?works for FedEx and helped arrange for free shipping.

"It's huge for our kids to get to touch a part of our science history," Rezzonico said. "There's all sorts of stuff we hope to do with it."

"To have something like this forever in our building is amazing," Meredith said.