UAH student invention: Out of This World - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

UAH student invention: Out of This World

UAH student invention (Source: WAFF) UAH student invention (Source: WAFF)
NASA Payload Operations (Source: WAFF) NASA Payload Operations (Source: WAFF)
Astronauts thank RJ for his work (Source: NASA) Astronauts thank RJ for his work (Source: NASA)
RJ talks to ISS crew (Source: NASA) RJ talks to ISS crew (Source: NASA)
HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) -

Every house needs a well-equipped tool bag. You always need to be able to make repairs-inside and out. That includes the International Space Station.

However, astronauts can't use the same tools we use on Earth, and they can't always get them from Earth when a problem arises. Not until the introduction of a new solution from a University of Alabama Huntsville student.

It's an all-in- one tool built to handle all types of jobs. One that can be manufactured on the ISS and one that's out-of-this-world.

If you don’t think so, just ask RJ Hillan. He’s the UAH sophomore from Enterprise, Alabama, who got to sit on the console at Marshall Space Flight Center's Payload Operations Center and talk to astronauts on board the International Space Station. That, after they manufactured his time-saving, pocket-sized invention.

“This is so cool,” said astronaut Tim Kopra, as he spoke to Hillan with the tool floating around in zero gravity.

The multipurpose precision maintenance tool does almost a dozen tasks, has no moving parts and looks like a thick slice of Swiss cheese.

“Basically, anything that has a nut, like a bolt, they can tighten," said Hillan. "They can measure wires, they can pry stuff open."

Amazingly, Hillan’s invention was manufactured on board the ISS using a 3D printer. Astronauts used a pattern and printed it using the same plastic that Legos are made of. It's small and light weight. A versatile technology that answers a real need.

"You can print the parts you need for replacement and other devices," said Kopra. "It has almost an unbounded capability that you can have to produce the things you need."

And the pattern can be modified. If astronauts need a different part, they can add and subtract from the current mold. Having enough tools to do a specific task has always been challenging for NASA and for astronauts. So a “printable” tool is the wave of the future. After all, there is no Walmart in outer space and NASA’s goal for the Journey to Mars is for spacecraft to be self-contained.

Hillan's father, Robert, believes his son's imagination finally paid off.  “He's a dreamer," said Robert. "He comes up with ideas all the time so to see that something he is working on work out for him, it is something that every father would want to have."

RJ won the Future Engineers contest while he was in high school. It has taken more than a year to get his invention printed on the ISS because of a science backlog.

Astronaut Tim Kopra told RJ, "You've got a bright future in front of you... the sky is the limit. Thanks, RJ"

NASA wants to hear from other bright imaginative students, K-12, who believe they have the "right stuff." If you are one of those, go to www.futureengineers.org for more information.
 

Copyright 2016 WAFF. All rights reserved.

Report an Error | Submit a Tip to WAFF 48

Powered by Frankly