HUNCH Students Create Designs to Help Astronauts

More than 200 middle and high school students from the Peninsula and surrounding school districts in Virginia spent the last year designing projects that could make living in space a little easier for astronauts aboard the International Space Station, or ISS.

As part of the High school students United with NASA to Create Hardware, or HUNCH program, students had the opportunity to design can crushers, a clothes washer, crew quarters, stowage lockers, and more, all of which will directly aid NASA's space endeavors.

HUNCH is a partnership between NASA and high schools and intermediate/middle schools that allows students to receive real-work, hands-on experiences.

"I see it as a way that NASA is giving back to the community and inspiring the next generation and providing a path for young people to begin imagining themselves in a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) type of career," said Langley HUNCH program lead Timothy Wood. "The students get a sense of pride knowing that they've worked on components that are going to be utilized by NASA, most often for ground testing and in some cases for flight."

Last year, the NASA Langley HUNCH program consisted of 20 students working on one project. This year, the program grew to 225 students working on 11 projects.

Projects are in four categories: build-to-print, implementation, design and prototype, and microgravity research.

Build-to-print projects are designed for classes that have the skills to perform, welding, wood-working, painting, plastic or metal fabrication, fabric crafting, and electronics fabrication. Implementation projects include web page maintenance and video editing. Design and prototype projects are targeted for engineering and design classes where students are given a concept and use their own ideas to create a design. Microgravity research projects allow students to design and build an experiment that is potentially tested in a microgravity environment.

Jeremiah Rosa-Peoples of the New Horizons Career and Technical Education Center in Newport News, Virginia, worked on a build-to-print project. He helped build three simulations of International Standard Payload Racks used by astronauts and mission support crew aboard the ISS Density module. At the beginning, it was scary for Rosa-Peoples; however in the end, it was nothing but rewarding. For Arthur Wiedemann, a classmate of Rosa-Peoples, the project was an inspiration. "I plan on becoming an engineer so this is definitely a step in the right direction," he said.

To end yet another successful chapter of HUNCH, participating students were recognized at a closing ceremony at Phoebus High School in Hampton, Virginia.

"Students, you should be proud of the work you have accomplished for NASA Langley, your school and for the International Space Station," said NASA Langley HUNCH program manager Tammy Cottee. Mark Jones, recent graduate of Denbigh High School's Aviation Academy in Newport News, was recognized for his efforts in designing the HUNCH website. When asked about his excitement prior to the ceremony, Jones said, "I'm not working the website for the glory. I'm doing it because it's enjoyable. I love it."

For Jones, it's all about perspective.

"Before being in the HUNCH program, I wasn't planning on going to college," he said. "And if I did go to college, I wasn't planning on getting anymore more than my associates. Now, I want to go on and get my bachelors. It changed my plans, but for the better."

Jones was eventually hired to work as a NASA contractor because of his success and work ethic while in the HUNCH program.

Though not all students go on to work for NASA, they leave the HUNCH program with a better understanding of what it's like to work in the real-world and what opportunities they have for their future.

"The most important aspect of the program is that it makes students recognize that there are technical opportunities available to them," Wood said. "Some of the students get to come to NASA Langley to see people working in technical positions and begin to imagine themselves in that same position."

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