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Middle Park senior designs laboratory box for NASA

Middle Park High School senior Drew Landy poses with his prototype of a plant laboratory box for space. Landy is one of five nationwide finalists for his design with NASA HUNCH. The winner will see their design go up to the International Space Station.
Courtesy CarrieAnn Mathis

Middle Park High School senior Drew Landy is waiting to hear whether his design for a plant laboratory box will make it to the International Space Station.

Landy participated in the “High school students United with NASA to Create Hardware” program, also known as HUNCH. The challenge, sponsored and funded by NASA, asks high school students to develop products and prototypes to improve a number of tasks in space.

Landy created a laboratory box for growing plants, which he presented to 20 or so NASA personnel on Wednesday.



“I think it went well,” Landy said, “just need to work on my public speaking a bit more.”

His faculty supervisor, Carla Hargadine, agreed he did a great job. Of the nationwide entrants into this particular category, Landy is one of five finalists for the design. If he wins, Landy’s design will go up to the International Space Station.



“It would feel like, ‘Oh gosh, I can’t believe this is happening,’” he said of the potential for getting his creation into space. “It all happened so fast … This is a topic I’m not at all confident in, so I just threw myself in.”

Adding to the impressive feat, most entrants worked in teams. Landy created the prototype by himself.

“I had to learn about how plants grow and how zero-gravity affects things,” he explained. “I had to also learn about how to work on my own a bit more since most other teams were in groups of three or so on average.”

The entire project challenged Landy, pulling him out of his comfort zone. Making it as far as he has is something he takes pride in, especially considering all the effort that went into his product.

“It’s all something I’m proud of,” Landy said. “It was a lot of hard work and I’m proud of my work on it. This is my 10th design, if you can believe it.”

Landy has a knack for the more “confusing” disciplines, and plans to pursue particle physics in college. Working through the difficulties of this challenge has helped him to prepare for such a pursuit.

“Dealing with different environments and how to think of something, I mean — I’ve never been to space,” Landy said. “It’s different and the laws of gravity don’t really apply, so I think that was also really interesting. To think about something in a different setting that I can’t be in directly but still try to conceptualize and think of solutions for.”

Landy and Hargadine don’t know exactly when they’ll hear the results of the challenge, but Hargadine is hopeful it will be in the next week or two.

Regardless of the results, Landy agreed it was a great to learn so much in a real world — or out of this world — setting.


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