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High Schools United With NASA to Create Hardware

HUNCH is an extremely innovative partnership between educational institutions and NASA. The NASA HUNCH team at JSC consists of four individuals who visit schools in a four state area that produce training hardware, software, videos and flight hardware and software for NASA. Under the mentorship of HUNCH personnel this year alone the schools have produced single stowage lockers, cargo transfer bags, 3 minute educational videos, and experiments proposed to fly on the ISS. They have designed and fabricated a disposable, collapsible, glove box, an organizer for crew quarters on the ISS, as well as black boxes and an EPM Rack. Over the past 8 years, since the beginning of HUNCH in 2003, hundreds of items for NASA have been produced by hundreds of students.

The HUNCH team at Marshall Space Flight Center consists of Bob Zeek, Kriss Hougland and others that visit schools within a five state area. The MSFC HUNCH schools have been involved with the following:

Ares design concepts and prototypes – Payload simulators supporting electronics, software, and programming – Design drafting and rapid prototype development, including printing parts via a 3D printer for modeling – Machining parts for single stowage lockers, fabrication of a trailer and much more.

The HUNCH program is a school-based innovative program that promotes student interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. While students are building hardware, etc. for NASA they are also building their interest as researchers, as well as their self-esteem. HUNCH is a win-win innovative solution for inspiring the next generation of researchers and providing cost-effective hardware for NASA.

The idea of HUNCH started when Stacy Hale, the JSC HUNCH project manager, had the innovative idea that maybe high school students could build cost-effective hardware that was needed to help train the ISS astronauts.  Bob Zeek at MSFC and Hale decided to test the feasibility of this idea. Many were skeptical about this idea, but because of the hard work and dedication of Hale and Zeek, HUNCH quickly expanded from 3 schools to numerous schools, in various states; the unique idea of HUNCH was quickly producing extremely positive results to all involved.

Every year in April and May HUNCH has  Recognition Ceremonies for all the students and teachers that participated in HUNCH at MSFC and JSC. Every year the number of participants continues to grow as well as the quality, quantity, and diversity of the products that students fabricate.  While the Recognition Ceremonies recognizes the students’ work, just as important to recognize are the educational benefits of NASA teaming up with students, which can only be measured by the changes in students’ attitudes toward their own self-confidence and their desires to enter STEM careers.

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