In the Fall of 2014 NASA selected Wapato High School to participate in its HUNCH program.  HUNCH stands for High School Students United with NASA to Create Hardware.  The “hardware” students in the high school’s Robotics and Engineering Club have been working on for more than three years is a way to keep fruit (apples) fresh for a longer period of time when it is sent into space for consumption by astronauts on board the International Space Station (ISS).

In order to find a way to keep apples fresh longer without the use of refrigeration (which the ISS does not have) the students have been examining the respiration rates of apples, which determines the apple’s shelf life.  On earth the apple industry uses refrigeration and a combination of gasses to keep apples fresh for over a year.  The students have been trying to determine if a similar process is equally effective in the vacuum of outer space.  The students’ goal was to determine the respiration rate of apples in three different sealed environments and to discover which would keep apples fresh longer.  Although they have had some setbacks, they were able to learn that their research is heading in the right direction.

As a result of their research Wapato High School’s Robotics and Engineering Club (W-REC) has been invited to the Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston, Texas to present their NASA HUNCH Design & Prototyping project: “Apples in Space”.   Their project is one of just 75 out of 300 projects nationwide that was invited to the Space Center to showcase what they have discovered thus far in their research and development.  The students will give their presentation in Texas on Wednesday, April 25th.

The Robotics and Engineering Club Advisor, Chris Beyrouty, says the exciting thing about this project is that the students are working to solve a real world problem for the space program.

Nearly four years ago the Wapato students were the first ones in NASA HUNCH program to propose the idea of keeping fruits and vegetables fresh for a longer period of time in space.  Now the problem is on NASA HUNCH’s Design & Prototyping problem list and Wapato students have been described as leaders in this type of research.

Wapato High School is the only high school in the Pacific Time zone working with the NASA HUNCH program to solve problems on the International Space Station (ISS)