Earth to Space: It’s Platt Tech

Department head David Tuttle, and his fellow instructor, Greg Amende, have made the Precision Machining Technology program challenging and rewarding for over 90 students each year at Milford, Connecticut’s Platt Technical High School. These students have extensive facilities at their disposal, including a large machine shop with nearly forty milling and lathe machines, and a generous CAD/CAM lab with numerous seats of Mastercam software programming the work for more than a dozen CNC machines.

Not long ago, one of the school’s vendors had seen a story about NASA working with high school students and thought Tuttle might be interested in a NASA program called HUNCH (High School Students United with NASA to Create Hardware). Tuttle sent off an email to NASA expressing interest. After some back and forth communication, a couple of representatives from NASA paid a visit to Platt Tech. They told Tuttle that when it comes to shop facilities, Platt Tech was the most heavily equipped high school they had ever seen. According to Tuttle, the State of Connecticut has made a substantial investment in them and in the rest of the 17 technical schools in the state school system.

To get them started with the HUNCH program, NASA shipped a 3,000-pound supply of aluminum to Platt Tech. They now make several of the larger parts that come together to fabricate storage lockers on the International Space Station that are used by the astronauts for a variety of experiments. Tuttle explains that they look a lot like aluminum suitcases. The largest part starts out as a billet weighing about 60 pounds and after CNC machining, the final piece weighs about 18 ounces. The smaller parts for the final assembly are made at other schools in the HUNCH program.

Platt Student Cheyenne Saunders reviewing measurements

Platt Tech students program all of the toolpaths in Mastercam for machining to tolerances within 0.003 inch to 0.005 inch. These are all precision components because, with parts coming together from different sources, accuracy cannot be taken for granted. Tuttle knows that students graduating from his Precision Machining Technology program at Platt Technical High School are in the right orbit for success.

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