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CCSD students audition projects for International Space Station

Student presenting his idea to another student in the HUNCH program.A device as seemingly simple as a tape dispenser is a lot more complicated in outer space.

Forces and physics that we take for granted on earth are absent in the vacuum of space. Astronauts don’t have the relative luxury of gravity, and it makes tearing off a small piece of tape a much bigger challenge.

“We work very closely with the Astronaut Office at the Johnson Space Center, and they tell us about all of the different needs that they have on the International Space Station,” said Allison Westover, project manager for the HUNCH program, an initiative that connects high school science, technology, engineering and technology students with the resources and experts at NASA and the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space.

“There are issues like protection from radiation, building compact exercise devices, vibration isolation chambers … There are just a number of projects we have that are designed to help astronauts while they’re living on the space station.”


A group of students from across the Cherry Creek School District is working diligently to solve such quandaries for the astronauts who bravely leave the comforts of earth behind. Students from Cherokee Trail, Eaglecrest and Overland high schools reported to the Wings Over the Rockies Air and Space Museum in Denver on Jan. 20 to offer possible solutions for a long list of space-related problems, issues that range from finding an effective way to preserve food to designing sports and parlor games that can be played in space.

The group of about 30 CCSD students reported to the museum with other high school students from across the metro area to garner feedback from experts. The event served as a kind of midterm review for students involved in the HUNCH program, a chance to show off progress and get direct input from engineers and scientists from companies like Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and Aero Electronic Systems.

Students set up displays that detailed their work since the beginning of the school year, and listened to experts’ feedback with a specific end goal in mind.

“The experts have come out here to give the students feedback on their projects and on how they could improve their designs,” Westover said. “By May, they need to have a final prototype. On April 14, we’ll have our final design review in Houston, Texas at the Johnson Space Center. We’ll have astronauts, engineers and NASA staff reviewing their work.”

If that final review proves successful, these students’ work may find a place on the International Space Station. HUNCH (short for High school students United with NASA to Create Hardware) has already provided such an opportunity for Cherry Creek School District students – last year, a group of Eaglecrest STEM students designed an experiment that’s set to launch in to space before the end of the year.Spectators walking by and observing proposals.

That kind of opportunity is invaluable for students with an interest in science, technology, engineering and math. The chance to see a project progress from the drawing board to the International Space Station is the best kind of route to a future career and a lifelong engagement in learning.

“It’s an opportunity for students to engage in engineering at its highest level,” said Dr. Richard Charles, director of STEM for the Cherry Creek School District. “They go through what engineers go through in the field. We’re very excited that this opportunity came to our district five years ago.”

That excitement was clearly visible on the faces of the CCSD students who presented a wide range of projects at the Wings Over the Rockies museum earlier this month. In a former hangar full of planes, jets and vintage aerospace equipment from the past 100 years, they made their own bid to make their mark on the history of space exploration.

Austin Condie, 16, and Dallin Fairbourn, 17, were among the students looking to send their projects in to space. The pair from Cherokee Trail High School showed off their design for a tape dispenser that would work in the zero-gravity environment of the ISS. After garnering feedback from the experts on hand, the pair were already thinking of modifications to their initial design.

“We need to find a way to put the dispenser of the side of the device,” Fairbourn said.

But such hurdles in the design process hadn’t dimmed their very obvious excitement. The prospect of sending a project to space was a pretty impressive motivator – both students were eager to get back to their work to secure an out-of-this-world ticket.


Posted 1/27/2016 2:08 PM

“It’s an opportunity for students to engage in engineering at its highest level ... They go through what engineers go through in the field. We’re very excited that this opportunity came to our district five years ago.”

-- Dr. Richard Charles, STEM Director for the Cherry Creek School District

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