MEDINA, Ohio - Don't think less of students in Frank Baluch's Precision Machining classes at the Medina County Career Center if they seem to be a bit spacey this week. Their heads might be a little above the clouds for good reason.
A locker they built frames for last year is scheduled to head out into space on Saturday, for use on the International Space Station.
And they recently completed work on a latch for another space station locker.
Even more exciting, they were given the honor of signing one of those lockers when Stacy Hale from NASA's Glenn Research Center in Cleveland visited their lab earlier this month.
"It's usually rare to get to sign a piece of the space station, even for NASA folk. It's a pretty big honor for them to get to send that up into space," Baluch said.Students in the Precision Machining Technology program at the Medina County Career Center have been working with NASA for the last three years to manufacture parts used aboard the International Space Station.Photo Courtesy of MCCC
The Career Center program began partnering with NASA a few years ago, after former student Adam Prante won a national competition and put the Precision Machining lab on NASA's radar.
"NASA was watching what our skills competitors did," Baluch said.
This was the third year that the Career Center was among high schools from across the United States to participate in manufacturing equipment for the space station.
"Each year, we try to produce a different part," Baluch said.
Ten seniors and 16 juniors participate in the Precision Machining program. The juniors work on building conventional tools using manual machines.
"They build the hammers, fly bars and other tools for their tool boxes," Baluch said.
The seniors work with computer numerical control machines that allow them to use high-technology methods of manufacturing tools and parts.
Between junior and senior year, the students intern at local manufacturing companies, which often leads to early job placement in January of their senior year, he said.
"Six of our 10 seniors are out on early placement - and getting paid," Baluch said.
"It gets them prepared for the modern manufacturing industry," he said.
Baluch said precision machining is currently a high-demand career, as Baby Boomers begin to retire and new, modern manufacturing methods revitalize the industry.
He said his students are the kind of kids who enjoy working with their hands.
"When they get to take nothing and create something, that's really enticing for them," he said.
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