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Local students make part for NASA

By DEBORAH

PRESCOTT

Escanaba Daily Press

ESCANABA — Machining students at the Delta-Schoolcraft Intermediate School District had a special visitor the first week of school — NASA Representative Stacy Hale, the creator and co-founder of the NASA program HUNCH. Darrell Mullins, machine tool technologies instructor at the DSISD, and his students created doors at the end of the 2018-2019 school year to add to lockers that will travel to the International Space Station. The lockers hold equipment and experiments that are loaded on Earth, then taken to the space station and returned to Earth in the same locker.

“They took on a tough part and they made it,” said Hale.

Hale does not visit schools often, but when he received a report from the assigned Northern Michigan University mentor to the DSISD he had to come to the school and take a look for himself.

“I received a report from the person I assigned to mentor this school,” Hale said. “They did a good job, it (fabricated piece) was just off a few thousandths of an inch. But they look really promising for this next year.”

Because last year’s piece was off the smallest of measurements, it will be considered training hardware, class three. This school year, the students will create class one hardware that will be in the space station.

The NASA HUNCH program allows schools all over the U.S. to work on projects for NASA. Hale is the lead engineer on the program.

“The program has reached out to 201 participating schools in 38 states. There are 17 organizational partners and 2,354 students that have created 489 items that have flown to the International Space Station,” Hale said. “In Michigan there are three.”

The DSISD in Escanaba is the only school in the Upper Peninsula participating in the program. Mullins sent a scope of work to the NASA HUNCH program and provided information about the capabilities at the school, the students, what he teaches in his machining class and that he would like to get involved in the aspect of HUNCH.

“We found out about this time last year that we would be considered for the program,” said Mullins. “I had to fill out a process plan and recommendation for what we could do for HUNCH.”

Thanks to Mullins initiative, DSISD was chosen by NASA HUNCH members to be a good school to add to their program. Testing material was sent to Mullins after his information was read.

“We sent him some drawings and said which of these things would you like to make … Mullins chose the top and bottom panels for a locker,” Hale said. “So we sent him the materials and we sent him some tooling as kind of a test.”

Mullins received the materials and plans and after doing well he received a space act agreement from NASA that allows the federal government to send property to other organizations.

“We will be delivering our first good part in about a month,” Mullins said.