Editor’s note: The school’s media production students interviewed the winning students and sent us their videos.
EAST LIVERPOOL, Ohio (WKBN) — Have you ever dreamed of going to space? Will you bring your cat with you?
What started as a joke has now become a student project funded by a NASA grant.
East Liverpool High School students have won a $1,500 grant from NASA to develop a spacesuit for cats. They are one of 60 honorees in the United States.
Students are working on a technology that they hope will one day allow astronauts to take pets to space, turning an ordinary house cat into a “cat-astronaut”.
“We chose Cats in Space for this project because the mental health benefits of being in contact with small animals like cats have been found through the COVID crisis,” said East Liverpool STEM Teacher/Team Leader Gerald Bartlett. “As we move toward colonizing the Moon and Mars, it’s important to consider the mental health of our astronauts.”
Students are asked to design a large project for their senior year. They submitted a four-page proposal. It’s all part of the NASA TechRise Student Challenge.
NASA could send this project on a high-altitude balloon flight for testing. But don’t worry, the experiment won’t harm any cats.
Student Preston Dawson said: “Instead of a real cat, we’ll have tests and different gauges there to make sure the cat can survive an actual space launch.”
“This cat is very fake,” said student Riley Cox.
“We’ll start by doing all the research to see what microcontrollers we need to use, how do we put it in the suit, how big do we need to make it,” student Lee Michaelwitz said.
Cox came up with the idea of a space cat. At first, she said her classmates were not happy about it.
“Everyone hates the idea of me,” Cox said. “They say it’s never going to win, it’s not a good idea. Then they’re like, this is stupid, so maybe it will win. So I think stupid ideas are the best ideas.”
East Liverpool is not the only local school chosen for NASA funding. Students at Canfield High School also received a grant.
In addition to financial help, students are meeting weekly with engineers via Zoom to help guide their projects.