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WDMCS Teachers NASA Bound

NASA Teachers cropped

WDMCS teachers Scott Brown, Sarah Gould, Bryan Bacehowski, Chris Novak, and Alice Fuglsang are heading to NASA.

Students and teachers from the West Des Moines Community Schools (WDMCS) are helping NASA solve a problem.

They designed a prototype of a satellite deployment system and the teachers are headed to Texas to test the equipment in a simulated microgravity environment at NASA’s Johnson Space Center.

“It is such a high level of engagement for these kids and it is stretching us beyond what we thought we were capable of doing,” said Indian Hills Junior High instructional coach Sarah Gould.

It began when Gould, Indian Hills Junior High science teachers Alice Fuglsang and Scott Brown and Stilwell Junior High science teachers Chris Novak and Bryan Bacehowski submitted a proposed design to NASA’s Microgravity University for Educators program. Their proposal was one of only 12 student-derived designs in the nation to be selected by NASA for testing.

During the past few months, the teachers and their seventh- and eighth-grade students built the prototype through the Engineering Design Process guided by a NASA scientist. The students participating in the project are part of the district’s New Tech junior high teams, which deliver instruction through a project-based learning model.

Newtech NASA astronaut

Former Astronaut Clayton Anderson speaking to the students.

The students recently received additional help from former flight director Tomas Gonzales-Torres and astronaut Clayton C. Anderson, who stopped by the science classrooms in late February on their way to teach at Iowa State University. The astronauts helped the students think about their designs and consider potential problems.

Working with NASA engineers and scientists at the Johnson Space Center, the teachers will experience how using tools in space differs from using them on Earth and mimic the training of astronauts as they participate in real-time

Newtech NASA prototype

The prototype WDMCS students and teachers developed.

According to NASA’s Microgravity University, a primary function of operating in space is the deployment and retrieval of payloads. NASA uses a deployment system to eject payloads such as cube satellites from the International Space Station. In recent years, a deployment system encountered trouble failing to release satellites when commanded, and inadvertently or prematurely releasing satellites. Work to improve the mechanics and powering of the system has been a focus for NASA and its partners. The Microgravity University for Educators invites teachers and students to be part of the team to improve the solution.

See the students and teaching testing their prototype prior to sending it to NASA.
WDMCS Teacher & Student NASA Prototype Test – Video 1 (14 Seconds)
WDMCS Teacher & Student NASA Prototype Test – Video 2 (5 Seconds)
WDMCS Teacher & Student NASA Prototype Test – Video 3 (36 Seconds)

See Photos from the Test at NASA’s Johnson Space Center!

Student-designed. Teacher-tested. NASA-approved? The WDMCS teachers tested the SLED at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, 1-2 p.m. April 4 and 6. See photos from all the tests, including our district’s, at https://flic.kr/s/aHskSpnzrg.

Gabe McGee, Stilwell Junior High, helps troubleshoot issues with the Remote Electromagnetic Attach and Release System (EMARS) during the test. He and his grandfather designed the EMARS system themselves.

Gabe McGee, Stilwell Junior High, helps troubleshoot issues with the Remote Electromagnetic Attach and Release System (EMARS) during the test. McGee and his grandfather designed the EMARS system themselves. (Photo credit: Allison Bills)