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Huntsville Center for Technology Students Answer Challenge

Just one month ago, our newest partner on the Rocket City Space Pioneers Team was announced – the Huntsville Center for Technology (HCT). HCT is a high school program exposing students to numerous disciplines from automotive technology, computer technology, precision machining, industrial systems technology, and others. As part of our RCSP partnership, I met with Mr. Mike Evans, who leads the Drafting Design Technology class at HCT, to present a problem for his students. Previously, Mr. Evans’ class built a 3/32 scale model of the RCSP Google X PRIZE lander using the school’s rapid prototyping machine. I knew when I saw their model they could really contribute to solutions to some of our real design problems. The resulting meetings followed the traditional systems engineering pattern: (1) define the requirements; (2) set the schedule; and (3) review progress. Mr. Evans challenged four students to devise a solution to the problem. You see, the RCSP lander requires a communication antenna be placed (ideally) on the top so that communications satellites orbiting the earth can “see” the lander and talk to it. This is much like cell phones and cell towers work here on Earth. When you talk on your cell phone, you stay connected to the other person as long as your phone can exchange radio waves with or “see” a cell tower. Back to the lunar lander problem ... In order to raise the lander’s antenna from a stowed position to a higher (~5”) position, we need a small platform able to extend upward. The HCT design team exceeded my expectations, designing a 2” x 4”x1.25” compact scissors jack capable of extending upward 2.75”. Sara was the team lead. Seena, Quiana, and Mike all contributed to designing and fabricating a full-scale prototype device. These guys “debated” how best to solve a mechanical stiction problem and finally produced a workable testing prototype. Through this experience, the design team got a taste of real problems faced by aerospace and mechanical engineers. The next step is to increase the working height of this prototype and add an actuator to the device causing it to perform its function. Thanks, HCT Team for a very good effort. We’ll see you soon with more design challenges. By Mike Soutullo, RCSP Thermal and Structures Lead (Teledyne Brown Engineering) HCT-Student-Team-RCSP
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