CONWAY — Students at the Mount Washington Valley Career and Technical Center at Kennett High School continue to have the right stuff and recently again received rave reviews from NASA for their work.
Last Friday, Stacy Hale, the founder of HUNCH (High school students United with NASA to Create Hardware) traveled to KHS with a piece of a locker destined for the International Space Station.
Teacher Andy Shaw and his machining students are in their sixth year partnering with HUNCH to make handles for lockers.
Students Jonathan Brooks, Gabe Mohla, Sam Pollard, Evan Eldridge, Dylan West, Jeffrey Palmer, Nick Heysler, Will Eaton, Kyle Buffeli, Dom Jones, Trey Snowden, Conner Glavin, Liam O’Keafe and Drew Hurd were all invited to sign their names on the locker (as were this reporter and Sun photographer Jamie Gemmiti) — an undeniable thrill for all.
“This will be part of a single-storage locker, and if you look at the NASA HUNCH website, you’ll see
astronauts holding up a locker, and you’ll see the panel that has all of the signatures on it,” Hale said.
Shaw and his students got a major helping hand this past school year from George Abbott, owner of Abbott Machine Co. in Center Conway, and Rod Henry of Redstone.
Both helped out in the machine shop while Shaw was out for 90 days this winter as the result of a suspension for allegedly hosting an under-age drinking party at his home last November.
The Conway School Board took Shaw out of the classroom from late January until May 15. He pleaded not guilty in the court case, which is scheduled to go to trial this summer.
Stephen Arsenault, who taught machine tooling in Massachusetts and Nashua prior to retiring, served as long-term substitute in the classroom, while Henry worked in the shop with the students.
Last Friday, Shaw, who returned last Wednesday and was able to host Hale’s visit, said, “I really want to thank George and Rod for stepping up for the last couple of months.”
Abbott and Henry, who helped set up the machine tool program at KHS when it moved to the new campus 11 years ago, were able to design a jig that allowed the students to make left- and right-handed handles to go on the lockers.
Hale, who said the Eagles made an intravehicular handle that enables crew members to maneuver throughout the space station, was so impressed by their efforts that he wants to make a movie about the process for NASA.
“Fifty years of experience helps,” said Henry modestly, adding: “We did it manually; we did it old school.”
Old school or not, Hale told him, “That is truly an amazing work of art.”
Working in the HUNCH program has Eagles thinking long-term about their futures. Heysler and Pollard, both seniors, say they are leaving with more than they could have imagined as freshmen.
“We just get so much experience, experience that many people in the whole United States aren’t blessed to learn,” Pollard said.
Heysler, who last week was named MWV Career and Technical Center Student of the Year, said: “It’s incredible. I spent last summer down in Houston working for NASA (as an intern with fellow Eagle Chase Lee), and that’s all through this class.”
Both plan to study engineering in college, Pollard at the University of Maine in Orono and Heysler at Florida Institute of Technology in Melbourne, Fla.
“That’s another awesome thing,” Heysler said. “The class provides us with opportunities to do problem-solving skills.”
Fellow senior Dylan West, who plans to study mechanical engineering at Clarkson University in Potsdam, N.Y., in the fall, says the HUNCH program has opened many doors for him and his fellow Eagles.
“When I went to Clarkson, and they asked me what I like to do, as soon as I mentioned HUNCH, you could just see this light come on, and they were all interested,” he said.
“When I told them that I worked for NASA and NASA projects they were, ‘Wow, you’ve already got quite a bit of experience.’”
Henry said he has loved working with the students.
“Ninety-nine percent of people have no idea how things are made,” he said. “There’s nothing that the guys, if they were machinists, that they couldn’t do that don’t affect your everyday life. Anything you touch, a machinist has probably had a hand in it.”
He said the field “is just screaming for help. People are not getting into the trades. It’s a valuable experience for these guys who want to be mechanical engineers — they have got to know how things are made before they can design them. I think a lot of this program and a lot of Andy. It’s great to see what this program can do.”
Shaw said he is thrilled to be back with his students.
“For myself, the reason I’m able to do the things that I do is because of people like George and Rod,” he said.
“All of that education is real, that’s the beauty of career-tech education and that’s why I’m so behind it. You guys need to understand that the things that you learn from them and from me, a great portion of that is stuff that you don’t learn in a book,” he told the students.
“Stacy (Hale) said it best earlier, you cannot be a good engineer without being a machinist or having that knowledge of being a machinist, so remember that,” Shaw continued.
“There are a great number of you going on this year to engineering, a lot of you are exploring that, right? That is kudos to the stuff that you learned here and the passions that you created and a great deal of that is because of HUNCH, and what HUNCH has brought to this school and brought to your lives. Thank you, Stacy Hale, for founding HUNCH and all that you do, too.”