NASA Selects HPU Students’ Proposal

HIGH POINT, N.C., March 16, 2015 – High Point University physics students have had their proposal accepted to NASA’s Micro-g Neutral Buoyancy Experiment Design Teams program (Micro-g NExT). This program challenged undergraduate students to work in teams to design and build a device for astronauts to chip off samples of an asteroid while they’re exploring its surface.

The spacewalking tools will be used by astronauts in the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory (NBL) at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston to help plan for future space missions. The NBL consists of one of the largest indoor pools in the world and serves as a microgravity environment in which astronauts can train.

Physics majors Jacob Brooks, Michael Cantor, Matthew Iczkowski, Simeon Simeonides and Hallie Stidham participated in the project with Dr. Brad Barlow, assistant professor of astrophysics, serving as their faculty advisor. In their proposal, the team presented a design for a handheld apparatus called the “Chip n Ship.” The astronauts can use this to chip off and contain samples of an asteroid while exploring its surface.

“NASA officials had strict design constraints for the apparatus and the team worked diligently to devise a tool that met these standards in a short amount of time,” says Barlow. “This program is a great opportunity for our students, and I am ecstatic that NASA officials selected our team’s proposal.”

Over the next few months, the team will build the device they proposed. In August, Barlow and the student team will fly to NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston to test it in the NBL alongside astronauts. They will have four days to get the apparatus to meet the standards of the Micro-g NExT program.

“This has been one of the most exciting and challenging projects that I have ever worked on,” says Stidham. “Not knowing the amount of time or effort that would be needed to create the Chip n Ship proposal, we dove right in. It is hard to describe the excitement that overcame us when we found out that our proposal had been accepted. We are honored to be chosen for this invaluable experience.”

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