(TNS) —Houston, we have liftoff.
Mt. Pleasant High School celebrated the launch of a new partnership with the NASA on Wednesday. The project will continue to embrace the school's growing culture of hands-on learning to find solutions for the U.S. space program.
"When you talk about truly inspiring the next generation, deep space exploration is the next step, and I want to be the type of leader to prepare kids for that jump," Mt. Pleasant Principal Ryan B. Jackson said. "I want kids from Mt. Pleasant High School to say literally and figuratively that the Mount was a launchpad for them."
The agreement was signed at the high school on Wednesday.
Through HUNCH, or High School Students United with NASA to Create Hardware, students at Mt. Pleasant will work to design and prototype a wide range of tools and technology used by the organization on the International Space Station. Students could also fabricate soft goods like redesigning the crew pantry to creating kits for the crew's personal items, create videos for the organization and develop a new menu catered specifically to astronauts.
"You get vital work skills, but the main goal is for you guys to get excited," Project Manager Bob Zeek told students inside the school's auditorium. "Take it seriously but have fun. It is our mission to inspire the next generation."
Through the program, students at Mt. Pleasant will compete against more than 2,500 students from 136 schools across the country to find the best
solutions for the international team of astronauts living on the ISS.
"You are going to learn a lot about engineering and what it takes to put something like this together," Astronaut Nicole Stott told the students in a video message.
Serving as mission specialist, Stott has spent 103 days, 5 hours and 49 minutes in space on five operations.
Although Stott could not be at the meeting in person, Roger K. Crouch, a Jamestown native, who flew as a payload specialist on two NASA Space Shuttle missions in 1997, was there to encourage the young minds.
Entering adulthood Crouch desperately wanted to become a fighter pilot, but due to color blindness, he was denied entry into Navy, Air Force and Marines.
For more than 30 years, he applied for NASA'a astronaut training program but was denied time and time again.
But in 1996, the 56-year-old Crouch was selected as a payload specialist for a mission and then a second months later.
"You may not get exactly what you want, but reach for it as much as you can," Crouch said. "You learn from your failures, and you are only really a failure if you quit."
In the first year of the program, students in the school's CTE, mechatronics and Project Lead the Way courses will primarily participate in the program.
The program can incorporate a wide range of tools, disciplines and skill sets focused on science, technology, engineering, arts and math to contribute to the program.
Previous projects have included work with design and drafting technology, computer electronics, precision machine technology, welding technology, electrical technology, woodworking technology, the culinary arts, graphic design and sewing.
Jackson said the program offers plenty of options to allow for expansion to other classes in the future offering more opportunities to further explore the school's emphasis on science and the arts in a project-based setting.
The visiting astronaut expressed his confidence in the students' abilities.
"I think you are going to be one of the leading schools," Crouch said.
The new partnership aligns with the Maury County Public School district's plan to implement a student-centered teaching environment with a dynamic classroom approach that requires students form a deeper knowledge through active exploration of real-world challenges and problems.
Rather than the traditional lecture based environment, students develop a question and are guided through research under the teacher's supervision, cultivating students as independent thinkers and learners.
Jackson said Mt. Pleasant's unique K-12 STEAM model in combination with the school district's learning initiatives are attracting partners like NASA to work with his students.
"We are tying to prepare kids to become the quick problem solvers that organizations like NASA need," Jackson said.
"We want to teach them to reach for the stars. We are bringing the world to Mt. Pleasant and connecting our kids with other kids from across the country."
For the students and teachers at Mt. Pleasant, the new partnership marks another step toward a future of greater opportunity for the city's youth.
"It is a great day for us," Jackson said. "It is great to see this come to fruition. You are witnessing what happens when a community invests in itself.
"They want to see their kids be inspired and be successful. The power of seeing everyone pull in the same direction is very powerful, and this is just the tip of the iceberg," he added.
©2017 The Daily Herald (Columbia, Tenn.), Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.