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Editor’s Note: The following story about Siren eighth-grader Samantha Andrea originally appeared in the April 7, 2021 edition of the Burnett County Sentinel (Grantsburg). It is being reprinted with the permission of the Sentinel.
Andrea is the daughter of Mary (Olson) Andrea, a 1987 graduate of Glenwood City High School, and the granddaughter of longtime Glenwood City residents Loren and Arline Olson.
by Kayla Casey, Sentinel Staff
Samantha Andrea, an eighth grader at the Siren School District has been working with DLC Coordinator, Bret Iverson, on a NASA project called Astro Socks. The project is through the You for Youth Portal which is run by the U.S. Department of Education. The portal has many STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) initiatives, one of them being the NASA Engineering Design Challenges. Within the NASA Engineering Design Challenges, there were a few projects to choose from. Only one challenge is allowed per school, and Astro Socks was Iverson and Andrea’s chosen challenge.
The objective of the Astro Socks challenge, according to the You for Youth website, is to “develop protective footwear for the International Space Station astronauts to wear as they live and work in microgravity.”
Iverson explained that Andrea will have to use STEM skills and follow the engineering design process as well as use a KWL chart- what you know, what you need to learn and what you’ve learned in order to investigate the challenge.
Through watching videos and beginning their research, Iverson and Andrea discovered that most astronauts just wear the socks that they bring up to space with them. The issue with that is they are in microgravity and there are bars in the space station to catch and hold the astronauts in different places and Iverson said, “So when they fly across and they hook their foot onto those bars they’re jamming their foot against that and they’re getting injured. When they’re up there for six months they’re getting quite a few injuries and then when they come back to Earth, they’re even having trouble walking.”
So in the process of working on the Astro Socks challenge, Andrea will be investigating microgravity, touring the International Space Station, exploring the daily routine of astronauts, and her last steps will be to construct a test rig sensor sock and through the engineering design process, design an Astro Sock prototype (the sock cannot weight more than 150 grams).
The You for Youth website and instructional book teaches how to build the sensor sock in order to test the prototype. The sensor sock is hooked up with different colored wires that connect to different parts of your foot, so you know where impact is being made when testing. The sensor sock is also connected to a program on the computer and Iverson said, “What it does on the computer, it shows the foot and if your sock actually reduces impact which is really cool.”
Iverson said they are taking videos and pictures throughout the whole process because at the end of the challenge, Andrea will have to make a final presentation to NASA along with a video and NASA and their team of experts will watch that video, hoping to find the next big solution to help their astronauts’ living situation in space. Iverson said NASA’s main goal is to work with the students and their future to possibly work at NASA and go to the moon, Mars and beyond.
Andrea said that she has loved working on the project very much and has always enjoyed space and hands-on projects. She wants to have a future career with NASA. She was going to start making her own sensor sock over Easter break to get started on the challenge.