Advanced Metals Students

Boldly going where no advanced metals students have gone before
Posted on 03/28/2018
Lloyd Jones - Original Article from Conway Daily Sun

CONWAY — A line at the beginning of the "Star Trek" television series — “To boldly go where no man has gone before” — pretty much captures the advanced machine-tool program students at the Mount Washington Valley Career and Technical Center at Kennett High School.

Teacher Andy Shaw and his students are doing out-of-this-world things, literally. Shaw and his machining students are in their fifth year partnering with HUNCH (High school students United with NASA to Create Hardware), and they’re working on a project that astronauts can’t wait to get their hands on.

Kennett is one of three schools selected to build handrail parts for the exterior of the International Space Station. While the two other schools, both from Texas, are each crafting two parts, the Eagles are manufacturing three different parts, and making 50 of each (Cam 90s, lock shafts and jam wheels) that they will present to NASA on May 19 aboard the USS Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in New York City.

“Two of the three parts require a fourth access,” Shaw said. “We had trouble with the machine (which HUNCH supplied) holding tolerance. We’re going to try to write a grant for a new machine through Southwest Industries, which would provide us with that fourth access capability that we need.”

Shaw and his students got a helping hand in working around the technical difficulties from George Abbott, who owns Abbott Machine Company in Center Conway and also serves on Shaw’s advisory board.

“George helped a ton because typically the part we needed would cost $4,000 to $5,000 to build,” Shaw said. “We had to make a piece that wasn’t really physically possible, but we came up with a tool that made the impossible possible. We had to design a tool — another element — you can work 20 years in a tool shop and never design a part, but these guys have done that. We took a town hall approach to solving the problem. We sat, talked it out, wrote a process plan and came up with a solution.”

Last April, the Eagles went to the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, where they presented their work on storage lockers at a ceremony attended by NASA, including International Space Station astronauts, and HUNCH staff.

"The people from NASA were blown away by our work and were extremely complimentary," Shaw said. "It was very humbling for me, and as a teacher it reinforces my reminding the students that all the little details matter.

"You've been around sports teams that play in the championships. For our team, this was our championship, and to get praise from NASA was our reward."

Fifteen schools were recognized, but Kennett was the only one from outside Texas.

The handrail project is “a cool step up” from designing storage locker parts in previous years, Shaw said.

Shaw’s advanced machine tool students Jonathan Brooks, Kyle Buffelli, Conner Furtado, Nick Heysler, Chase Lee, Brett Miller, Liam O’Keefe, Jeffrey Palmer, Zach Phaneuf, Josh Rivers, Trey Snowden and Dylan West are working on the project.

“We definitely stepped it up this year,” said senior Zach Phaneuf, who along with fellow senior Josh Rivers are overseeing the project. “We went from designing 50 pieces of one component to now 50 for three different ones. It’s definitely more complicated but everyone is coming through.”

“We were pretty ambitious on what we chose,” Shaw said with a grin. “We’re still pretty confident we can pull it off. It may come down to the last minute, but we’ll get it done.”

metals students

Last week, 16 students from Shaw’s from Machine Tool 1 and 16 from Advanced Machine Tool passed an exam and became NASA certified to handle and work on life-critical hardware for the International Space Station.

“It’s a really big deal,” Shaw said. “All of the parts that are assembled for outside the space station are seen as life-critical. I think the big reason we got this certification is because of the quality of our work. We have never had a part rejected in three years. NASA likes what we’re doing — we all take a great deal of pride in being able to be a part of a project like this.”

Working in the HUNCH program has Eagles thinking longterm about their futures.

“It kind of made me think about precision metals and what this can do for the whole country,” Lee, a senior who will study mechanical engineering at the University of Utah next fall, said. “The fact that we’re making life-critical parts for the International Space Station is kind of surreal. I’ve learned probably more than I’ll ever really understand and comprehend, and it’s all because of that man (pointing to Shaw).”

“I’ve gone from not really knowing what I want to do when I came to Kennett to now having a career path,” added Phaneuf ,who plans to study mechanical engineering at Lake Region Community College.

Miller and Brooks work quality control after components are manufactured in order to make sure every detail meets the NASA specifications.

“This is my lab,” Miller said in a small room with two computers, scales and a wide range of measuring devices.

“Only NASA, Lockheed Martin (aerospace, defense, security and advanced technologies company) and us have seen these prints (for the parts),” Shaw said.

Miller says he probably won't pursue engineering, but he's taking a lot from this experience.

"It's all about problem-solving," he said. "That aspect helps with anything you do in life. I also like that we're doing real world stuff here."

The carrot in front of this project for the Eagles, besides gaining a ton of experience, is if their three parts meet the deadline and pass inspection, Kennett will be able to display a handrail at the school for a year.

“I have 10 students all working as hard as they can to make this happen,” Shaw said. “They’re all working together, and everyone is contributing. You might say we’re a well-oiled machine.”
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