Research Students Win NASA TechRise Challenge for Future Engineers

Brentwood High School Research students are one of 3 groups on Long Island chosen to be a part of NASA’s Future Engineers project.

Hooriya Tariq, Staff Writer

After a much-anticipated wait, Mr. Patch’s Research students were on the edge of their seats to hear the final decision from NASA on their project proposals. The idea was simple: to send a functional mechanic nail clipping device to space, and test how well it could apply pressure to a human nail. However, the group had to consider an important obstacle that arise in space: microgravity.  

Currently, the process for cutting nails in space is a hassle. According to a demonstration by NASA astronaut, Chris Hadfield, astronauts travel to a nearby air vent with a regular nail clipper and use the suction effect of the vent to catch loose clippings. The problem with this is that in an already busy, constricted space and primarily hands-on environment, chances are high that clippings can float into the eyes or be breathed in by others.

After doing more research on this topic, the team organized together a project proposal comprised of important background information, a rough diagram, and details on what they hoped to accomplish with their experiment.  

According to the sophomore team members, Georgette Pierre and Talha Rehman, “When Mr. Patch first brought up the challenge, we weren’t totally certain we could come up with a winning idea. Then we asked ourselves the question, what do humans do on Earth that they can’t do in space? And that’s where we got started.”

The team was one of 57 total groups in America chosen to participate in the NASA Techrise launch, part of NASA’s Future Engineers program. The challenge was to design an experiment to be tested on either a suborbital rocket or a high-altitude balloon that could travel to the upper atmosphere of Earth and remain in microgravity for three minutes.

Teams also received $1,500 in financial support ad well as a supply of materials and assistance from engineers towards building their experiments, which included a 3D flight box in which their experiments would be secured.   

Since the announcement in late January 2022, the team has been researching and applying new designs and methods to their original outline, with advice from their teacher, experienced engineers, and even a nail technician to guide them through the process.  

The group is taking things one step at a time, working to form a model experiment consisting of acrylic nails, clear plastic, DC Motors, and attachments.   

“Ideally the device will be able to cut through nails multiple times,” said group members.  

Along with microgravity, the team questioned other aspects of the flight – such as keeping their experiment from going up in flames during its passage through the atmosphere, and securely fitting their project into the rocket’s 4- by 4- and 8-inch chamber.  

As of now, the UP-Aerospace suborbital rockets are set to launch in early 2023. Whether the launch is successful or not, the learning experience is certainly rewarding for our Brentwood research students.