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Oklahoma State Students Help N A S A

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OSU students designed and manufactured solar panels that are being used during Space Shuttle Atlantis' current mission.

News on 6 reporter Chris Wright has more on a very unique project.

The space shuttle Atlantis arrived at the International Space Station Monday with the OSU-designed solar panels. Astronauts will use those panels to teach kids across the country about solar power.

After several delays, Atlantis finally took to the skies this past weekend. During their mission, astronauts will install a city-bus-sized set of solar panels that will generate power for the International Space Station.

To explain their mission, the astronauts also wanted to bring along replicas of the panels. And that's where Oklahoma State came in. Junior Mechanical Engineering Technology major Aaron Bookout made the replicas. "It was really interesting to see it through the whole design process, to design it and manufacture it."

Space shuttle pilot Chris Ferguson will use the solar panel while conducting classes from the space station. Mechanical Engineering professor Warren Lewis: "he's going to be conducting experiments and televising them back to the NASA schools, they'll be doing similar experiments and tests on earth and comparing them to what he's done."

The middle schoolers taking part in the experiments also needed solar panel replicas, so Aaron and his fellow engineering students made more. OSU students manufactured 260 of these solar panels, which were then distributed to classrooms across the country.

OSU says the NASA project could mean big things for its growing Mechanical Engineering Technology program. Warren Lewis: "It's one of the first major projects we've achieved and done, it's really a neat venture for our students. Where do we go from here, that's the big question."

As for Aaron Bookout, he says he plans to monitor Atlantis' mission closely, and pay special attention to his cargo. "It's a little surreal, sometimes it doesn't sink in and it's just very interesting." Aaron Bookout says he had a great time making the solar panels, and has actually kept in touch with astronaut Chris Ferguson via e-mail. But he's actually not interested in one day working for NASA; he says he wants to design tools after he graduates.
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