JONESBORO - Not many people have the opportunity to work for NASA, and even fewer have that opportunity to do it while they are in high school. However, students of the Northeast Arkansas Career & Technical Center (NEACTC) in Jonesboro will soon be able to add that distinction to their resumes.
NEACTC recently was accepted into NASA’s HUNCH program. HUNCH, which stands for High Schools United with NASA to Create Hardware, is a program that shows high school students the different ways they can put their talents to work for NASA beyond becoming an astronaut. This program began as a way to get students who are skilled in manufacturing, machinery, welding and other skills involved in NASA. Now, NEACTC will be a part of that.
Ricky Barker, Instructor of Advanced Manufacturing at NECACTC, ran across the program while watching some training videos with his class. Once he realized they met all the criteria, he applied and was thrilled to find out they would be visited by a NASA representative as the final step to becoming part of the program.
Barker said the inspection visit went very well.
“He [the NASA representative] basically approved us just a few minutes after he walked in the door. He was very impressed with our students and our state of the art equipment,” Barker said.
Bob Zeek, HUNCH cofounder and program manager, said the career and technical center is an ideal place for the program.
“NEACTC is a one-stop shop – utilizing multiple curriculums that support the NASA HUNCH model. With multiple curriculums co-located on campus students can share the different stages of the projects from inception to the finished project,” Zeek said.
All projects that the students complete will support the International Space Station and the next generation of NASA’s Space Launch System. This once in a lifetime opportunity has the students at the center very excited.
“I think it’s great,” said Byron Koster, a junior at Jonesboro High School. “Being able to make parts for NASA is just amazing opportunity that most people will never get the chance to do.”
Not only is this experience rewarding for the students right now, but this is also something that can be a huge career booster down the road.
“I think this is a huge step forward for this Career & Tech Center and these students,” said Kennedy Brown, a senior at Jonesboro High School, who wants to become a mechanical engineer. “We’ll be able to put on our résumé that we’ve run parts for NASA and that’s a pretty big thing.”