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IN SESSION: Newport News students construct lockers for astronauts

The lockers will help astronauts aboard the International Space Station store everything from food and clothes to mice used for experiments.

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — Some Newport News students are working on a project that’s out of this world.

At Denbigh High School’s Aviation Academy, about a dozen students are working to help build stowage lockers for astronauts aboard the International Space Station.

“Anything that is considered a loose item that they can actually put in there and keep it closed up so it’s not just floating around,” said Neal Witherspoon, a maintenance technician for Newport News Public Schools. “They’re used for all kinds of things up there: storing food, storing science project…the space station has mice up there that they use for experiments, so food for the mice, medical supplies, clothing."

The work is highly technical, taking about four months to build just one box. They are constructed using aerospace, military and aviation assembly fabrication methods and techniques. 

“You can be very proud that you’re contributing to the International Space Program,” said George Kessler, project manager from NASA’s Johnson Space Center, in a recent Skype session with the class.

The project is proving beneficial to both astronauts in outer space and youth on earth.

“They can apply that skillset to a career they’re looking for outside of Denbigh or when they graduate in any technical field such as aviation, automotive, machinery, working at the shipyard for the kind of work they have to do there,” Witherspoon said.

The students are part of the HUNCH (High school students United with NASA to Create Hardware) program.

Denbigh High School is one of two schools in the country building these stowage lockers for NASA. Their goal is to make two this year and eventually work up to building five per year.

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