OCC team tests invention with NASA at Johnson Space Center

The team spent 4 days in Houston working with NASA on anchor device

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) - A team of six OCC students is back from a trip to NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston where they were testing their invention seven months in the making.

OCC’s team was one of only three community colleges chosen for this project; private colleges included the likes of Cornell, Columbia and RIT.

Team Co-Leader Natalia Montilla says, "It was an awesome experience, when we got down there we were like whoa we're here."

The students had been picked to test out a device that can bore down into a comet and hold a space machine in place long enough for it to perform important experiments.

The formal part of the visit included a test readiness review.

"You go up in front of a room filled with all these engineers and they basically quote unquote grill you and say have thought of this, have you thought of this, have you thought of this and you get a lot of positive feedback."  Team Co-Leader Brian Richardson tells NewsChannel 9.

The key piece was the 30 minute test in NASA’s neutral buoyancy lab, 120 times bigger than an Olympic-size swimming pool with space and other test equipment underwater to simulate weightlessness.

The team got a strict five minutes poolside with the divers who would test their auger before being asked to leave for the control center one floor up.

From there they had 30-minutes to direct the divers from a very simple but specific script on how to use their machine.

When the divers tried it straight up and down the auger would not dig into the sand so they decided, with help from a NASA engineer, to put it at an angle.

"Not only were we able to get the device to work but we were also able to see how well we work in a stressed environment when something doesn't go right.”  Montilla says.

Richardson adds, "As a whole they liked the idea of a gear box which allowed you to have more of a mechanical advantage so it made it easier for them."

"For it to be implemented in a real project it would be a great honor for the school and for us."  Montilla says.

It may some day be used because all the elements from their test were recorded and will be saved in the NASA archives for future reference.


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