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The Hornet

Serving the Fullerton Community Since 1922

The Hornet

FC students reach for the stars in NASA design contest

With dreams of space in their hearts, Orange County community college students Michelle Yoon, Patrick Babb, Ian Castorillo, Alex Miyoshi and Nashir Janmohamed have banded together as Team Quintessence to compete in a NASA design competition.

Entitled Micro-Gravity Neutral Buoyancy Experiment Design, the competition is an engineering design challenge that allows undergraduate students to design, build, and test a device that would, and eventually might, be used in the pursuit of space exploration.

“The most important thing we took away from Micro-G NExT was an insight into how the engineering design process is truly broken down. We all had a hand in every part of the project during Micro-G NExT, from design, to fundraising, to outreach, to technical writing, it was so exciting and educational to see the intricacies of the process from start to finish,” said Yoon. “Additionally, it gave a practical understanding of the ability use all the theories we learn in the classroom and apply it to a creative process by breaking everything down into its components.”

Team Quintessences’ particular design is for a camera attachment mount and positioning system that would be used by astronauts aboard the International Space Station during Extravehicular Activities. The challenge provides experience in multiple disciplines. In addition to designing the tool, entitled CLaMP, the team conducted testing of the tool in various environments, did outreach, raised funds for the project and wrote a technical document explaining their design.

If their proposal is accepted, they will continue working on their design to create a final proof of concept, which will be used during a one week test session at Johnson Space Center in Houston Texas. There, the design will be tested by NASA divers in the simulated microgravity environment, the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory, where astronauts train for spacewalks.

From there, should the team advance, they will get the opportunity to present their design at the Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley, and possibly have the design used by astronauts aboard the ISS.

“I hope to work for NASA in the future. I would like to work on experimental aircraft and spacecraft for NASA,” said Babb. “Winning would mean that I got to use my knowledge to make somebody’s job easier, better and safer to do. It would also validate my hard work that I put into the project from structural analysis to preliminary design.”

“Winning would mean another opportunity to bring myself to my dream of becoming an astronaut. Many big teams that go every year are actually part of my dream schools such as Columbia and Cornell,” said Castorillo. “To win would also mean to compete against the best and to maybe even get a glimpse of future school teams I could be a part of.”

A team made up of community college students, Team Quintessence will be competing with students from Cornell, UCSD, Boise State, and more.

“I just hope the hard work that the other members of the team and I put into this is recognized by the judges,” said Yoon. “I’d view just getting to the second stage as a huge success. As a matter of fact getting as far as we have is a success in itself.”

“I wanted to feel like the work I did made a difference in people’s lives; though I first pursued that goal through music, I felt that my efforts in STEM would have a farther reaching effect,” said Janmohamed. “And every step of the journey with NASA so far has been amazing, overwhelming, but everything you hope for and more. I just hope the hard work that the other members of the team and I put in is recognized by the judges.”

For more information on the team and their progress in the competition visit their website: