East Troy High School students Eliot Felski (from left) Caleb Edwards and Robert Thomas in front of a Saturn V rocket at Johnson Space Center during their April trip.

High school NASA Hunch teams spend week at Space Center

By Tracy Ouellette

SLN Staff

East Troy High School sent two teams to the NASA Hunch final design review at the Johnson Space Center in Houston April 13 to 16.

The teams have been working on their projects since the fall and advanced to the final design review after the critical design review hosted by East Troy High School on March 1.

The East Troy teams consist of a group of boys developing a radiation protection jacket and a group of girls developing sleeping quarters.

The boys team included Andrew Glass, Caleb Edwards, Eliot Felske, Kellan Woods and Robert Thomas. The girls team included Christina Nolting, Caitlin Hunter, Madeline Otto, Carly Goetsch, Tara Johnson and Mikaela Scheer.

East Troy High School Caitlin Hunter demonstrates a model of the sleeping quarters to a group of children at the Johnson Space Center in Houston.

“The (Houston) presentation went well. Once they are chosen to go to Houston, NASA considers it a collaboration among the students from different schools to share ideas. The kids presented their projects in front of a Saturn V rocket and signed a container that will go to space,” East Troy High School NASA Hunch advisor Ryan Manske said Tuesday.

The NASH Hunch process includes a design phase, prototype construction, re-design and presentations to NASA engineers. The students worked for more than six months on their designs using this process.

Both teams said communication was the key throughout the design and constructions phases, especially when the projects needed to be refined or redesigned.

“We had to have a lot of communication,” Nolting said. “We doubled checked everything with each other and provided constant feedback.”

“We had this huge group chat and we made sure everyone knew what was going on,” Hunter said.

The boys agreed that communication was the key and found the whole process to be a valuable learning experience.

“It was really cool to follow the process step by step, from the brainstorming to coming up with the design and then refining the design,” Felske said. “The final design was very different from our original.”

East Troy High School juniors Caleb Edwards, Eliot Felski, Andrew Glass and freshman Robert Thomas explain how their Radiation Armor Design project for NASA Hunch works at the March 1 design review at East Troy High School. (Tracy Ouellette photo)

A RAD problem

The boys project was to design a radiation protection jacket for use in space.

The Radiation Armor Design, as they called it, needed to protect areas of the body vulnerable to radiation. As such, the boys spent a lot of time researching which organs of the body needed the most protection and how to best shield those areas.

“Everyone did research,” Felske said. “We all had to know the information. We could have spent more time making it look better, but we felt our time was better spent researching.”

“It took a lot of trials and redesigns to get it where it would work,” Edwards added.

Some of them even had to learn to sew.

“I sewed a lot,” Glass said. “My hands were sore.”

The boys said one of the challenges that had them redesigning the jacket was that it needed to be flexible and not interfere with the astronaut’s ability to move.

Another challenge was the tight budget. While the students said the East Troy School District was “extremely supportive and generous” the cutbacks in the NASA Hunch program meant they didn’t have the resources they would have liked.

“We had to find different ways of doing things,” Glass said. “We got very creative because you have to when you have no tools.”

East Troy High School juniors Mikaela Scheer (from left), Tara Johnson, Carly Goetsch, Caitlin Hunter, Christina Nolting and Madeline Otto answer questions about their spring-controlled sleeping area project at the March 1 design review. (Tracy Ouellette photo)

Sleeping under the stars

The girls project was to design a sleeping area that was collapsible and easy to set up in zero gravity.

“We did a lot of modeling in the Fab Lab here,” Hunter said. “But there were certain material we couldn’t get.”

The girls ended up using a lot of substitutions for things like the fire-proof material the quarters needed to be constructed with.

“We tried to cut up one of Mr. Manske’s fire-proof blankets but he said no,” Hunter said with a laugh.

The girls also faced the same budget constraints the boys had and also resorted to creative solutions and used the Fab Lab to build parts of the sleeping quarters.

Because the unit had to be practical and easy to set up, the girls, after much trial and error, came up with a spring-controlled pole design that allowed for quick set up and take down, basically at the touch of a button.

“It takes about 3 to 5 minutes to do,” Otto said.

The girls also created a graphic video rendering of the design and how it worked for their presentations.

One of the things the girls enjoyed the most about the program was being on an all-girl team, many of them not involved in the engineering classes at the high school before.

“It was a really big deal for us,” Hunter said. “We were able to set goals and work together to accomplish them as a real team. Some of us are legacies, like me, but some of us just wanted to try something new and get involved.”

Like the boys project, the process for the girls involved a lot of design and redesign before they were ready to present at the March 1 design review.

“And there were a lot of little extra details that we worked on so that it looked professional,” Goetsch said. “We started with drawings on white boards then created the first prototype and then went back to the white boards.”

“We had a lot of really bad drawings on Mr. Manske’s white boards,” Hunter said. “We ended up scrapping our original design starting all over with a new design and new prototype.”

Manske said he was proud of all the hard work the students put into the project and hopes to continue working with many of them in years to come.


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