Shakopee High School students selected to present research projects to NASA

Three students from Shakopee High School have been chosen to present their projects and research to NASA at the Johnson Space Center in Houston.

The NASA program returned to Shakopee back in March to promote STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education among students. The event was an opportunity for students from Shakopee High School to showcase their ideas in a science-fair format to NASA representatives and local engineers.

Shakopee students Kady McGraw and Brynn Leary in one project, and Limheang Chhun in another, were selected for their projects that focus on goals of improving the lives of astronauts during and after their missions.

The students were chosen out of a list from roughly 460 schools across 46 states through the NASA HUNCH mission (High School Students United with NASA to Create Hardware), a project-based learning program where high school students learn 21st century skills and have the opportunity to launch their careers through the participation in the design and fabrication of real world valued products for NASA, according to NASA’s website.

McGraw and Leary’s project aims to alleviate the many challenges astronauts face through the power of art. The team has proposed several creative ideas that would allow astronauts to make collages, jewelry, wire wrapping, and mosaics to offer unique approaches to fostering artistic expression in space to help battle PTSD.

McGraw and Leary believe that by allowing astronauts to engage in artistic expression while in space, a therapeutic outlet will be created to manage stress and maintain their psychological well-being. Moreover, the use of scrap materials for the artwork ensures cost-effectiveness, making it a sustainable solution for long-duration space missions.

“The idea that we decided on was to make jewelry and other wire wrappings,” the team said in their project proposal. “There is the option to create smaller sculptures including lunar elements and glass. By using glass and wires from old cameras and using small lunar rocks found around the moon, we can create complex or simple designs for both ideas.”

Wire wrapping, in particular, has emerged as a versatile medium that repurposes recycled wires from electronic equipment such as transformers. The technique allows for the creation of a wide range of products, including sun catchers, jewelry and figurines. By incorporating lunar glass as accent pieces, astronauts can infuse their creations with unique colors and textures inspired by their surroundings.

“Not every astronaut will feel the same after returning from a space flight,” the team cities in their findings. Astronauts are three times more likely to develop PTSD, and have a 68% chance of developing depression.

“The longer the mission, the more effects seen on the astronauts,” the team added. “During these flights the astronauts have exposure to a minimal amount of people, the lack of social interaction causes an increase of health problems both physical and mental.”

Being creative can help decrease the severity of poor mental health symptoms and has been shown to benefit overall mental health, the team added.

Chhun’s project centers around 3D printing medical supplies. Chhun is a Shakopee CAPS (Center for Advanced Professional Studies) student and has been a volunteer at the St. Francis Hospital for two years. She consulted the hospital to learn about sterilization of the supplies and how to account for all the equipment safely.

In addition, the Academies of Shakopee had two student teams recognized as semi-finalists by NASA for their Kwadropus Mobility Arm and VR Lunar Habitat projects.

One student team received an honorable mention for their Badge Holder project, resulting in nearly half of the 2023/24 Engineering & Manufacturing Academy class being recognized by NASA.

The three Shakopee students will present their projects for NASA’s Critical Design Review session mid-April of this year.

In addition to Shakopee High School, several other local student groups, including those from Minnetonka High School, Southwest Christian Academy, and Armstrong Academy will be advancing to the Nationals in Texas.

The original article published by Southwest News Media can be found here.