Windsor High School students designing components for NASA

By Jennifer Coe - ReminderNews
Windsor - posted Fri., Jan. 31, 2014
Bradley, Michelle and Robert, all seniors, are three of the designers who are a part of the NASA HUNCH program. They, along with about 10 other classmates, are creating locker doors which may make it as far as the International Space Station. Photos by Jennifer Coe.
Bradley, Michelle and Robert, all seniors, are three of the designers who are a part of the NASA HUNCH program. They, along with about 10 other classmates, are creating locker doors which may make it as far as the International Space Station. Photos by Jennifer Coe.

Windsor High School technology education students are partnering with NASA to assist with designing portions of a space locker destined for use on the International Space Station. The HUNCH program (an acronym for High School Students United with NASA to Create Hardware) involves students fabricating items for use on the ISS.

Teacher Matthew Dadona is excited about the opportunity his students have to create a real-world item. “The students here are able to participate in a unique experience, in that they are able to train on industry-quality CNC equipment. That is not usually seen in a high school setting,” said Dadona. “This technology is the way in which modern manufacturing is done, and for the students to have the ability to work on this level of machinery, on a real-world project, is a great opportunity for them.”

The students have been asked to create several panels for a stowage locker that NASA astronauts will use.

“We were provided with measurements from NASA,” said student Robert Zawasky. Then he and two of his classmates, Michelle and Bradley, all seniors, created a design using geometry and engineering software. Prior to that, Zawasky and his peers had to create something they had never made before called a “sacrificial plate.”

The slab of metal was cut and fashioned so that the special vacuum table NASA had sent them could be utilized, but not damaged in the creation process. “We kind of had to tweak it a little bit,” said Zawasky. Windsor’s machines weren’t quite the same as NASA had in its fabrication labs.

Once the sacrificial plate was in the right place and they were ready to drill, about 10 students gathered around the huge, computerized drill machine to cut the first holes. They were pretty excited to see the drill dig in after several weeks of work and preparation. All of them wore protective eye gear and became silent when the coolant started pouring out of the machine.

“There are four components to each locker door - three panels and a door frame - and we committed to build five complete door assemblies,” explained Dadona.  “The door frame is the more complex part that requires us to make a special fixture before we can actually make the part.” The students have completed only two of the pieces they have set out to make, but are working on the project whenever class meets. “I am hopeful that we can finish the frame by the middle of March,” said Dadona.

When the panels are completed, they will be sent to NASA, where they will be fit into their locker. Once the Windsor students prove they are able to complete this task as requested, NASA’s HUNCH program will be working with them again to fabricate other things which will be used by real astronauts on the International Space Station.

“Having the NASA HUNCH program on their resume will certainly help open up doors for my students when they go to apply to college, an apprenticeship program, manufacturing program or first job,” said Dadona. “It will let others know that they have done a serious project, with tight tolerances, and they have the skills necessary to be a modern machinist.”


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