CLAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) — Three local high school seniors at MVCTC are top finalists in a NASA contest.

It’s the third year in a row students from MVCTC have been named as finalists.

John Li, Ethan Howard, and Justin Butler applied what they learned in the classroom to build software to work on a real NASA project as part of the NASA HUNCH program. It’s a STEM program where NASA has real needs and problems, and students can put their skills and critical thinking to work and help solve real-life issues.

“High School kids can program. High school kids can problem solve,” says MVCTC teacher Melissa Goodall, who’s an instructor of computer coding and web applications. “They’re looking at artificial gravity on the Space Station–what would it be like and what problems might they encounter as they look to add an artificial gravity wing to the space station.”

John Li took charge of the project

“We had to change our perspective because the whole station is rotating. The entire concept of what up is, is constantly shifting,” states John Li.

A lot of research and physics went into developing a simulation of what it would be like on the International Space Station with artificial gravity.

“What we decided was a flat surface needed to have curvature,” describes Li.

With no right answer, it required thinking outside the box.

“Trying to think of things you wouldn’t think of when you look at it because it’s not as straightforward as it may seem at first,” says Ethan Howard. “You fail a lot and you just have to work through it until you figure out what works and what doesn’t work, and just having an open-mind through the whole thing is a great way to get started.”

“If there’s anything we learned in this class overall it’s how to come at a challenge,” says Justin Butler.

The three overcame that challenge with real-world work and a final project to impress the experts.

“Making it to the finals was great, but I think if they use any part of our project, that would be even better,” states Butler.

If NASA decides they like what they see, they can ask the students to turn over their project to be used as a prototype.

Li, Howard, and Butler are graduating from MVCTC this year as well as their respective partner high schools. Li will graduate from Miamisburg, Howard from Eaton, and Butler from Huber Heights. Li has plans to go to OSU and to pursue a career in software engineering. Howard will go to Sinclair and is planning on a future career in software engineering or development. Butler will be heading to the University of Dayton for a degree in computer science and hopes to have his own business someday.