STILLWATER, Okla. – The pressure is on for three Meridian STEM Academy students.
They’re working with NASA to solve how to administer IV fluids in a microgravity environment. On earth gravity is in play, but not in space. Codie NcNeill, Lance Sallee and Tyler Waggoner are trying to determine the right amount of equilibrium, or pressure, needed on the outside of a bag to safely deliver fluids or medication in space.
STEM Academy students were challenged to choose from several different problems through the NASA HUNCH program. The HUNCH program empowers students to learn valuable skills and launch their future careers through project-based learning.
Waggoner, a senior at Guthrie High School, said he looked at all of the options before the group made their decision.
“This project gave us an edge because we knew this project was more difficult,” Waggoner said.
IV administration requires gravity, and this poses great difficulty in space. NASA is looking for a way to use IV fluids to keep astronauts hydrated on longer flights. Right now astronauts are limited to what they can physically consume. This project also can be used for medical emergencies on extended flights in the future.
“They can pump fluids directly into them, so they can stay in space longer and go on longer missions,” said NcNeill, a senior at Mulhall-Orlando High School.
NASA is currently working on their Artemis missions which, according to NASA, will “establish the first long-term presence on the moon” and eventually lead to sending astronauts to Mars.
The team of students has 3D printed a chamber the IV bag will be housed in, and they’ve come up with a way to use pressurized air within the chamber for the bag. The students are working to refine the process as liquid in space has higher surface tension and wants to stick to its surroundings.
Sallee, a senior at Guthrie High School, said his previous courses at Meridian Technology Center were invaluable in helping him prepare for this task.
“In Principles of Engineering we covered topics that I have needed in this project,” Sallee said. “Without that class, I wouldn’t have been able to build this project.”
Through the project, students are learning more than just skills in engineering. Working together to solve the problem has also taught them valuable lessons about teamwork. This group of students has come to rely on using their collective knowledge.
“We listen to each other and bounce ideas off each other,” said McNeill.
The three have had the opportunity to meet with NASA engineers to get input on their project, ask questions and gain insightful information to guide their path forward.
In the STEM Academy, there are four additional student groups working on projects for NASA HUNCH. These projects include IV fluid generation through water purification and sterilization, 3D-printed medical devices for unforeseen medical emergencies and the creation of edible packaging as a space-saving resource. A final group of students is creating a way to roll dice in space, so the astronauts can play dice games to combat mental health concerns on long journeys.
STEM Academy instructor, Debbie Short said this project gives students a chance to use their prior experiences in the program to, “identify a real-world problem, research prior attempts, develop a solution and design a working prototype.”
The students will present their projects to staff and students at Meridian in December, then they will present them to NASA for the competition in March.
“Working with mentors from the Johnson Space Center to develop solutions for problems that astronauts have identified for the International Space Station is preparing our students for their future careers as engineers,” said Short.
Meridian Technology Center has been a driver of economic development since 1975. With a mission to educate, enrich lives and secure economic futures, Meridian offers full-time career training programs, short courses, Business and Industry services and entrepreneurial support to residents from the Agra, Carney, Glencoe, Guthrie, Morrison, Mulhall-Orlando, Pawnee, Perkins-Tryon, Perry and Stillwater school districts.
For more information or to enroll visit www.meridiantech.edu or contact a career counselor by phone at (405) 377-3333 or toll-free at (888) 607-2509.