This fall, a chosen group of North Carolina A&T State University engineering students will team with aeronautics and astronautics students from Purdue University to work on a project for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to be used at the International Space Station.

“We’re proud to be one of the first experiments picked for the research system,” said mechanical engineering professor Dr. John Kizito.

Kizito and his friend, Dr. Steven Collicott, professor of aeronautics and astronautics at Purdue, worked together to write a proposal to design and build an experiment for a microgravity environment with undergraduate students.

“They will design and build a package, have NASA ship it to the International Space Station, train astronauts on how to use it and write papers to publish their data,” Kizito said.

The students for the project have not been chosen yet, but will be selected from the building and design classes. The students will collaborate on creative design options, pick the best one and send it to space – all in one year. The designs have to be creative because of the size of the project.

“Because space is limited, the design has to fit inside a shoe box,” Kizito said. “The cost of sending a pound of materials into space is $20,000 so everything needs to be small.”

This project will also include efforts to motivate middle school students to pursue and enjoy science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) related topics.

Working on this project can yield a host of great opportunities for the students involved and perhaps for the public.

“We can also learn from this and apply to devices later, 20 or 30 years from now the car you drive may be utilizing some of the things we’ve learned from this experimentation,” Kizito said.

“They will be experts. They can, not only work for NASA, but for the Air Force or any space technology company and people who use satellite systems.”

Kizito says this exposure can possibly spark interest in the students to work for NASA or one of its contractors.

“The interest comes via exposure,” he said.

It is, after all, the exposure to NASA that got him interested in working for NASA. Before coming to A&T, Kizito worked at the NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland for eight years conducting research on microgravity environments.