Engineering a Prototype for the International Space Station (OUR SCHOOLS MAGAZINE: NOVEMBER 2020)
Using just $50, off-the-shelf equipment and the science standard for the most basic computer, James Moore from Lee’s Summit North High School successfully built a space prototype.
This past spring, as many people tried to stay busy during the COVID-19 pandemic, James found his outlet: the COMPUTER (Cyber Opportunity that Merges Programming, Understanding, and Testing for Experiments and Research) Challenge through the University of Alabama in Huntsville.
After identifying, testing and proving his scientific objective about a force acting on the International Space Station (ISS), he earned national attention for his prototype. It will be part of an experiment through the U.S. Space and Missile Defense Command, which launches to the ISS in 2021.
“I want to be doing something. I want to be building something,” James said. “That’s the only way I can fulfill myself.”
James credits the Lee’s Summit North Students for the Exploration and Development of Space, a local chapter of the national SEDS-USA, which shared design advice with him.
Even before he could address out-of-this world engineering problems, he had to fix Earth-side headaches. With no time and little budget, he learned how to rewire a mistake in manufactured electronic equipment. He also adapted a new programming language he then had to explain to the challenge’s organizers.
“More than just technical knowledge, where I think I really grew in my understanding was this project management because I had a set deadline and budget, and I hadn’t really had to work with that before,” James said.
James hopes this success is a step toward his dream job, working in the aerospace industry as an engineer.
“The feeling I’ve actually worked on something that is going into space for the purpose of science, to me that’s about as good as it gets,” he says.