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Space news (space technology: Future Engineers Space Tool Challenge; The Multipurpose Precision Maintenance Tool) – The International Space Station, June 15, 2014 –
Travelers adventuring in distant, unknown lands can’t carry a tool and replacement for every job along the way. They need a multipurpose tool designed to do a number of important tasks, ready to go to work at a moments notice. For astronauts traveling, living and working in space, University of Alabama in Huntsville sophomore engineering student Robert Hillan has designed The Multipurpose Precision Maintenance Tool as part of the Future Engineers Space Tool Challenge. A single tool capable of helping astronauts complete a number of jobs, including tightening and loosening bolts and nuts of various sizes, and stripping wires. The best part’s the Multipurpose Precision Maintenance Tool recently debuted on the International Space Station.
“Our challenges invite students to invent objects for astronauts, which can be both inspiring and incredibly tough,” said Deanne Bell, founder and director of the Future Engineers challenges. “Students must have the creativity to innovate for the unique environment of space, but also the practical, hands-on knowledge to make something functional and useful. It’s a delicate balance, but this combination of creativity, analytical skills, and fluency in current technology is at the heart of engineering education.”
As part of his prize after winning the Future Engineers Space Tool Challenge in January of 2015, Robert Hillan watched from the Payload Operations Integration Center of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama as his tool came off the 3-D printer on the International Space Station. Robert smiled as NASA astronaut Jeff Williams showed the completed tool coming off the Additive Manufacturing Facility on board.
Watch this video showing the Multipurpose Precision Maintenance Tool aboard the International Space Station here.
“I am extremely grateful that I was given the opportunity to design something for fabrication on the space station,” Hillan said. “I have always had a passion for space exploration, and space travel in general. I designed the tool to adapt to different situations, and as a result, I hope to see variants of the tool being used in the future, hopefully when it can be created using stronger materials.”
Watch a time lapse video of the printing of the Multipurpose Precision Maintenance Tool here.
Robert also got to spend a few minutes chatting with astronauts living and working on the International Space Station. NASA astronaut Tim Kopra, stationed aboard at the time commented on Hillan’s tool, “When you have a problem, it will drive specific requirements and solutions. 3-D printing allows you to do a quick design to meet those requirements. That’s the beauty of this tool and this technology. You can produce something you hadn’t anticipated and do it on short notice.”
Watch a video of his conversation with astronauts on the International Space Station here.
“You have a great future ahead of you.”
What does our young, intrepid inventor plan in the future?
What’s next for our young inventor?
“When I won the competition, I started seeing problems I face as new opportunities to create and learn,” Hillan said. “Since then I have tried to seize every opportunity that presents itself. I love finding solutions to problems, and I want to apply that mentality as I pursue my engineering degree and someday launch my own company.”
We see red horizons ahead for this young man. A steady light that goes bravely forward into the future. We expect to hear about him doing big things in the future. No matter the path he chooses.
You can learn more about Future Engineers and all their past and future challenges here.
Join the space journey of NASA.
Learn more about the International Space Station here.
Discover 3-D printer technology and the future it promises here.
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Witness and learn more about the spectacular Bubble Nebula.