Students give NASA a hand

By Gail Crutchfield

Students from Wallace State Community College’s machine tool technology program are playing a part in history by providing parts for the Astro Restoration Project with NASA HUNCH and the Smithsonian Institute’s Air and Space Museum.

The Astro Telescope flew in space two times on space shuttles before being decommissioned and eventually scrapped for parts. When plans were made to restore the telescope, the NASA HUNCH program contacted Wallace State machine tool technology to craft some of the parts needed to replace those pulled from the original machine.

Using some of the program’s newest machinery, the students created the brackets that astronauts used to tether themselves to the telescope during spacewalks once it was deployed from the space shuttle.

Students and instructors traveled to U.S. Space and Rocket Center Wednesday where the telescope is currently on display and undergoing renovation for a fitting of the parts. It will be moved to the Smithsonian Institute’s Air and Space Museum once restoration is completed.

“It was a great educational opportunity for our students,” said Jonathan Minyard, chair of the machine tool technology program. “Being involved in this project has allowed our students to get a first-hand experience of what it means to build something that’s going to be used for space exploration or study the skies, something many students dream about. Students in our field can work in nearly every industry, from the defense industry to the medical industry and everything in between.

“This project gives our students an outstanding connection, especially to be able to come here and see first-hand the engineers that originally worked on the NASA telescope. And our students got to go in there and hand fit the part.”

“It was pretty cool,” said student Johnson Sellnow. “It was a good opportunity to learn. And I don’t think many people can say they’ve had the opportunity to see something they’ve made in the Smithsonian or here, for that matter.”

“We’re extremely proud of what the students have accomplished and honored to be asked to be part of the project,” said Jerry Murcks, interim associate dean of applied technologies.

Students and faculty were also invited to sign a piece of Single Stowage Locker that will travel to the International Space Station. The lockers are used to store experiments and projects on board the space station.

Along with Sellnow, other students participating in the project include Bailey Gooch and Jack West of Cullman, Trent Gorham of Fairview, Philip Hansel of Arab, Brylan Rice of Samantha, Slade Ryan of Baileyton, and Brody Sams of West Point. Along with Minyard, faculty members included Justin Burnett, Chris Quick and Steve Smith.

The Wallace State machine tool technology program trains students for careers as machinists, tool and die makers and more using machines such as lathes, milling machines, computer numerical control (CNC) machines, computer assisted programming equipment and graphics programming.

This article originally appeared here.

Gail Crutchfield

is the communications and marketing coordinator at Wallace State Community College in Alabama.