Emanuel School students engineer their way to space

August 4, 2019 by Michelle Favero
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Connecting to the upcoming National Science Week celebrations and complementing the school’s established innovation strategy, Sydney’s Emanuel School hosted ex-NASA JPL Engineer, now Amazon Lab126 Product Engineer, Christine Fuller.

Christine Fuller with Year 4 students Zarah Gorelik, holding LEMUR and Archie Ernster, showing D.R.O.P

Christine, who is in Australia to celebrate the 50th’s anniversary of the lunar landing, inspired Emanuel School primary students with her experiences over the past five years of developing robots for NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Drawing from her experience as a mechatronic engineer, Christine shared the science and engineering behind the development of the rovers sent to Mars and the robots assisting the astronauts living on the International Space Station.

Year 6 student, Daliah Smagarinsky, said: “Christine explained that humans grow weak in zero gravity and how this can affect astronauts. This means that we need to send rovers and robots into space because they can survive in conditions that humans can’t survive in.”

Ashley Cohn, Year 6, was enthralled by the robots that the space engineer had developed: “Christine demonstrated three NASA robots which she helped build which use Gecko Adhesive and Microspine technology. Gecko Adhesive works using Van der Waals’ forces, which is weak, but if you have enough you can climb up a variety of surfaces including glass and metal. One robot that she demonstrated, called LEMUR, a robot with replaceable feet, uses both of these technologies. Another robot she brought with her was D.R.O.P.; a robot that, let’s just say, keeps climbing up… and then realises that it can’t go down. Hence its name.”

The Year 5 cohort attended a follow-on workshop with Christine where she discussed different grippers discovered by the NASA team. The students made their own, using concepts from Mathematics, Science and Engineering.

Two lucky students interviewed Christine about her favourite robots for the next edition of Emanuel News.

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