When students in William Gibbs’ metal shop class at Clear Creek High School were first assigned to build a new dining table for the International Space Station, they knew it was a big job, but it wasn’t until recently they knew just how important their completed project would be.
The table is just one of the projects completed by Clear Creek High School, Clear Lake High School and Clear Springs High School students as part of a national program called High school students United with NASA to Create Hardware, or HUNCH.
The HUNCH program is equally strong at Clear Lake High School and Clear Springs High School where students have designed and created storage lockers and a food pantry for the International Space Station.
The table, which is intended to double as a work station, was designed to be big enough that it could serve as a gathering place for both American and Russian astronauts, Gibbs said.
And on Thanksgiving, it did just that as the six Expedition 50 crew members gathered around the table to share a meal of re-hydrated turkey, stuffing, potatoes and vegetables.
“It really shows you what Thanksgiving is all about,” Gibbs said.
Gibbs said he’s been so excited to share a photo of the six Expedition 50 crew members sitting at the table with his students.
“It really makes you realize how important what you’ve been a part of is,” Gibbs said. “It’s a really good feeling for these students to know that what they’ve created is not only usable, but usable on the International Space Station.”
The dining table is designed with sophisticated hinging mechanisms that allows it to fold flat against the wall when not in use, giving astronauts more room to move about. One side of the table is simply made for a place to eat, but the flip side has a system of clamps and brackets to hold small items in place. It is designed so that any small tool that might need repair can be bolted down so that astronauts can work on it without it floating away in zero-gravity atmosphere.
In total, the project would have cost NASA about $1.5 million to create. But through its partnership with HUNCH, it only cost $30,000.
“This partnership is an incredible opportunity for students,” Gibbs said. “They get the chance to work shoulder-to-shoulder with some of the world’s best.”
Soon, the dining table could be joined by other projects completed by HUNCH students. Currently, students are working on building 150 mid-deck storage lockers, which typically are valued at about $50,000 apiece.
This project will take a year or two for HUNCH students to complete because they are so detailed, Gibbs said. Already, students are on their 17th locker. Fifteen completed lockers have already been delivered to NASA, which are scheduled to be sent up to the International Space Station on the next flight.
“This partnership is truly one of a kind,” Gibbs said. “We’re incredibly thankful to be a part of it.”
Click here to see a video from aboard the International Space Station.