Scholars Assembling Hygiene Kits that Could Be Headed to Space
The sky is the limit for learning basic life skills. That is the lesson for several Columbiana County Rising Scholars involved in a project through NASA.
These scholars, in grades 7 through 10, are part of a partnership with the NASA HUNCH program and its Softgoods division. They are making personal hygiene kits used primarily by astronauts during simulation training exercises while on the ground. However, if a project meets NASA’s highest quality standards, a student’s work could reach the International Space Station.
The High Schools United with NASA to Create Hardware (HUNCH) program was launched by NASA in 2003 at three high schools. Today, more than 200 high schools across the country are involved with the project-based learning program through which students learn 21st century skills and find career opportunities by designing and fabricating real world-valued products for NASA (www.nasahunch.com).
Dr. Jessica Paull, director of the Columbiana County Rising Scholars program, explained that this partnership was initiated by former grad student/mentor Brienna Scott while she was working on her graduate thesis.
“Because it teaches life skills, while adding a prestigious line on their résumés, I thought it was an excellent fit for our program,” Paull said. “At the end of the year, our scholars will each receive an official letter from NASA that recognizes the skills they have acquired, particularly if they are team leaders, which they can add to their résumés. It’s an excellent opportunity and I’m very appreciative that Bri recognized it and brought it to our community.”
The Team Leaders for this project include scholars Nathan McMichael, machine specialist; Jose Garcia Jr., linear measurement leader; Victoria Jackson, stitch inspection; Sylas Johnson, controlled storage leader 1; Aidan Frye, controlled storage 2; and Vixx Mohrbacher, controlled storage 3.
Paull explained that the hygiene kits are made of Nomax IIIA, a soft, flame-retardant fabric that feels like cotton and is flight-safe. They are similar to toiletry bags with removable Velcro pockets. “Astronauts can remove the pockets containing their toothbrushes and head to the area where they can ‘flush out’ their mouths,” she noted.
The scholars began working on this project last fall by completing training required by NASA. Jennifer Leonard, the Softgoods Lead for HUNCH, traveled from Texas to visit the scholars and start the process. The goal is for each scholar to complete one hygiene kit.
NASA provided two industrial sewing machines, as well as the patterns and material for the items. Before they could begin making hygiene kits, each of the scholars needed to practice and perfect their skills by making a composition notebook cover. This project incorporated all of the skills and tasks required to make the hygiene kits, which allowed the students to practice their skills on something they can each keep.
According to the HUNCH website, most of the finished items created by high school students are used for training purposes. The items are crafted to exact specifications and must show the highest quality possible to have the best chance of reaching the International Space Station.
The students learn best practices for quality assurance and proper safety documentation throughout the construction process. This makes them “more accountable for their output, insuring tractability from start to finish.”
Nancy Hall is an aerospace engineer and research scientist with NASA who has also visited the Salem Campus to work with the scholars.
“Our scholars had the opportunity to talk to NASA representatives in person, not only about this specific project, but about internships and working for NASA, even if they don’t want to go to space,” Paull said. “It’s been a fantastic experience for our students and this program.”
Cutline A: Sylas Johnson and Victoria Jackson using the Juki sewing machine to practice their stitch skills.
Cutline B: Mentor Sarrah Tennefoss watches Jose Garcia and Nathan McMichael as they learn to use the sewing machine.
Cutline C: NASA’s Nancy Hall (in front of room) met with the Rising Scholars to help them begin their work on making hygiene kits.
Cutline D: Measure twice; cut once. That is the rule for (from left) mentor Joy Carpenter; Morgan Hunt; and Tommy Kornbau, master mentor.
Cutline E: Scholars practiced their sewing skills by making composition notebook covers.
Cutline F: The final product: examples of what the NASA hygiene kits will be.