Working for NASA is usually an out-of-this-world type aspiration for even the tech savviest 20- or 30-somethings.
But it’s already a reality for a group of students in the technology club at Council Rock High School South in Northampton.
They are considered unpaid employees of the space agency and are working on several projects they hope eventually will be adopted for use aboard the International Space Station or some other NASA facility.
Council Rock South is one of only 125 schools across the country and the only one in Pennsylvania to be working with NASA on such projects, agency Project Manager Florence Gold said. Schools are selected on the basis of applications they submit to the agency stating why they think the school is worthy, she added.
“It’s an amazing experience because not a lot of schools are involved in this and it really motivates us to work hard on our designs, knowing they could be used by astronauts some day,” said Council Rock South senior Marcello Lucci.
“It’s a lot of pressure but also a lot of satisfaction,” added junior Jared Beck.
Among the projects they are working on are:
- A Velcro slipper that can anchor astronauts aboard the space station by their feet in zero-gravity conditions and free up their hands for taking pictures and other activities.
- A process for 3-D printing molds that could be used by astronauts aboard the ISS to cast various metal or urethane parts.
- Applications that can track the location of astronauts and their equipment and possessions on the space station. Astronauts can lose track of where everything is, NASA officials said.
- Drones that could be used for various aspects of space exploration and can be tested without the need for expensive drop towers.
- Creating a trajectory for a projectile to leave one orbiting vehicle and connect with another.
Gold said NASA is working to perfect a vibration isolation chamber submitted by Council Rock South students several years ago. The chamber would allow fertilized eggs to be sent to the ISS without shattering, she said.
The school has been working with NASA since 2011, Gold added.
“Those students do an incredible job working on the various projects each year,” she said. “Their presentations to NASA engineers are always very professional and they truly take ownership and pride in their work.”
Part of that is a credit to Fred Bauer, a technology education teacher at Council Rock South and faculty adviser for the technology club, Gold said.
“He consistently inspires and encourages his students to reach for the stars,” she said.
Bauer said the students consistently amaze him.
“I don’t consider them to be students in a lot of cases,” he said. “I run the program but they are in charge. They wind up deciding what they will do. Their successes and failures stem from that, and the failures are always learning experiences.”
Credit: Bucks County Courier Times