Monday, December 16, 2013

Engineering Students Get a Boost in Support of NASA HUNCH Experiment Series

Under normal conditions, determining the mass of an object is a simple affair; you place the object on a scale and it tells you the mass. But in a zero gravity environment like outer space, things get a little complicated. To make the process easier, engineering students at the Tri-County Regional Vocational Technical High School (RVTHS) in Franklin, MA have been taking part in the High School Students United with NASA to Create Hardware (HUNCH) program to find a solution. The program gets students involved in the creation of hardware designed to meet the unique needs of those working at the International Space Station.

To help the students meet their objective, Mark-10 Corporation donated two Series 7 digital force gauges for use in their innovative measurement system. The system involved the two force gauges being mounted to a spinning platform. An object of known mass was attached to one of the gauges, while an unknown mass was attached to the other. By calculating the ratio of the two centripetal force measurements, the students could determine the unknown mass. The system is aptly named the “Zero Gravity Scale.”

With their scale prototype complete, the students took it aboard the NASA Zero Gravity Plane in Houston, Texas for a realistic simulation. Now, they are looking into the next phases of research, creating a smaller design for use on the International Space Station.

To further support these NASA HUNCH student endeavors, Mark-10 donated two miniature Series R04 force sensors. These instruments offer tension and compression measurements in tight environments, which is important in this field of work. We take pride in being able to help budding engineers create devices that will advance aerospace exploration.

To see the research put to work, watch a video of the Tri-County RVTHS students testing their Zero Gravity Scale (in zero gravity!) on YouTube.