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Platt Tech Students to Inspect Space Station Parts

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Watch the WTNH News 8 video about this project

By John Burgison

If you were an astronaut, and 99.99 percent of your spacecraft’s 2 million parts worked perfectly, you could still have big problems with the 200 parts that didn’t.

So it might come as a surprise that two teenagers are being entrusted to approve about a dozen lockers for use aboard the International Space Station.

But Jessica Liscinsky, of West Haven, and Elizabeth Petroski, of Derby — both Platt Technical High School students — are NASA-certified inspectors.

“We’re not giving them any free passes just because they’re high school students,” said NASA’s Florence Gold, who heads the 15-year-old high school participation effort. “They’ll have to adhere to the exact same specifications and tolerances that our contract supplies must follow.”

Officially, the effort is called HUNCH, for High school students United with NASA to Create Hardware.

“When the program first began, the students only made gear for training,” Gold said. “But we were so impressed by the quality, we decided to have their work certified for ISS duty, which involves a lot more documentation and inspection.”

David J Tuttle, Platt’s department head of precision machining technology, said about 60 students will be participating.

“Elizabeth and I work at Stephens Manufacturing (in Milford) as inspectors, so that’s how we got involved in the project, Liscinsky said. “They do a lot of aerospace work for Sikorsky Aircraft, so we’re familiar with the some of the inspections protocols.”

“We took a test to see if we qualify as inspectors, and we all passed,” Petroski said.

A third student, Brianna McCrystal of Oxford, will be working on a different project for NASA; she will be redesigning an electrical tool and parts kit because the one being used on the ISS has some shortcomings, she said.

“When NASA visited us, they gave us information on gear that needs redesigning, so I decided to look at their ‘pin kit,’ which is used to make electrical tests and repairs,” she said. “The problem they have now is that when they open the kit, all the little parts — alligator clips, that sort of thing — float away when they undo the Velcro pouch. So my design will look something like a drill bit index, made of hard plastic.”

McCrystal said she’ll have to have her prototype ready by Feb. 3.

Gold said about 100 schools nationwide and about 2,000 students are involved with HUNCH.

“Platt is an exceptional school with a lot of great instructors and top-notch equipment,” Gold said in a telephone interview from her office in Montana.

The girls, all seniors, will receive at least some notoriety.

“We’ll get to sign our names on the lockers with a Sharpie, so our names will be in orbit,” Liscinsky said. “Even the Sharpie is a special one from NASA.”

Work on the lockers will begin in earnest after the raw materials will be delivered from NASA by truck on Dec. 9. About 60 Platt students will be involved in the locker-fabrication project, Tuttle said.

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