NASA partners with high schools to develop ideas for space program

NASA will team with students at 17 high schools in four states -- including five in Mississippi -- to design and develop hardware and software models and products for use in the space program.

Students at selected schools will work with NASA engineers on eight projects identified by the High Schools United with NASA to Create Hardware (HUNCH) initiative. Engineers at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., and John C. Stennis Space Center in Bay St. Louis are involved in the program.

The Mississippi schools are Hancock County Vocational Technical School in Kiln; East Central High School in Hurley; Gulfport High School in Gulfport; New Albany High School in New Albany; and Petal High School in Petal. Hancock is a first-time participant.

“HUNCH is hands-on and involves work on real products with engineers who are leaders in their fields,” said Cheryl Guilbeau, elementary and secondary projects coordinator for the Stennis Education Office. “It really is an invaluable experience for students.”

Twenty-five high school teams submitted proposals based on NASA guidelines. Seven of the selected teams will participate in HUNCH for the first time. NASA personnel will visit each school by early December to deliver task packages and discuss assignments. Student teams then will work with NASA engineers through March on assigned projects. Teams will have an opportunity in April to display and present their projects to NASA personnel.

HUNCH projects for this year include work on hardware mockups of equipment used in the International Space Station; cryogenic fluid management with multipurpose hydrogen test beds; heavy-lift space vehicle subsystems; an Integrated System Health Management concept for a rocket engine test stand; a portable rocket engine test stand; rocket engine test stand structural monitoring with fiber optic strain gauges; a portable hybrid rocket test demonstrator and a portable gas-gas rocket test demonstrator.

The project was launched at Marshall in 2003 and expanded to include Stennis Space Center last year. In addition to introducing students to a real-world work experience, the goal of the HUNCH initiative is to inspire high school students to pursue careers in science, technology or engineering fields.