Students’ Project Will Help Astronauts Sleep More Comfortably

Cypress, TX (July 8, 2016) CFISD career and technology education (CTE) students have already created a way for astronauts aboard the International Space Station to eat and meet better. A new student project will ensure that the space explorers will soon sleep better too.


Pictured left to right: Maureen Thomas, Marcia Dickson, and Nyzia Montgomery

Throughout the summer, student interns are working under Cypress Ridge High School fashion design teacher Maureen Thomas to create a new model of sleeping bag liners for ISS inhabitants through the NASA HUNCH (High School Students United with NASA to Create Hardware) program.

Entering its 13 year, HUNCH allows students to fabricate real-world products for NASA as they apply their science, technology, engineering and mathematics skills, work in teams and think creatively.

Cypress Woods and Cypress Springs high school students recently completed a galley table that arrived at the ISS in March and is used daily by the astronauts. Now, a team largely comprised of Cypress Ridge students and graduates is cutting, sewing and stitching fabric for sleeping bag liners that are expected to enter space by 2018.

Two prior successful projects created by Thomas’s students— a cargo bag and a trash bag featuring a hinge designed by Cypress Woods CTE students—have been used in astronaut training facilities, and HUNCH called upon her again for the larger-scale opportunity.

“This project is significantly more challenging,” said Thomas, an 11-year Cypress Ridge teaching veteran. “And we’re the only ones in the world getting to do it.”


Karian Mireles (left) and Iliana Perez; Emily Qualia (foreground) and Joann Hamer

Thomas assembled a seven-member team consisting of 2016 Cypress Ridge graduates Karina Mireles, Nyzia Montgomery and Janette Meza, incoming Cypress Ridge senior Iliana Perez, 2016 Cypress Woods graduate Matthew Bridges and out-of-district interns Emily Qualia and Joann Hamer based on their strong sewing skills.

NASA contractor Wyle Life Sciences Group was chosen to build the new U.S. sleeping bags that will replace the previous Russian design. Wyle reached out to HUNCH to give students the opportunity to play a unique part.

“When I get a project I make sure it’s a teacher who goes beyond the call of duty to support and manage their program,” said Marcie Dickson, HUNCH Johnson Space Center (JSC) softgoods manager. “The way Maureen managed her classroom really spoke to me as a place we could bring our flight items to.”

After being selected, Thomas and her team sat in on a NASA meeting with 22 individuals who had varied interests in the sleeping bag.

“Everybody had a different question, from the number of stitches per inch to the access for the arms,” Thomas said. “It was good for the students to see an actual working business meeting.”

The new bag design will offer greater comfort and flexibility for astronauts as they rest in their sleep chambers, including improved ventilation and expandable sides for varied sleeping positions.

The students began the project on June 20, utilizing HUNCH-provided equipment such as industrial sewing machines and project tables to fulfill NASA’s request of 48 sleeping bag liners. Using a CAD pattern and bag sample from Wyle, the students worked as a team to transform a large roll of cotton Batiste fabric into space-ready sleeping gear. The first year of the two-year project will conclude July 29, and Dickson said Thomas’s students would be called upon to finish the liners next summer.


Cy Ridge fashion design teacher Maureen Thomas; Janette Meza

Iliana Perez, who will enter her third year of fashion design at Cypress Ridge in 2016-2017, said the experience has been difficult yet rewarding.

“It’s a lot of preparation. A lot of cutting, a lot of sewing, but I think it’s going to be worth it in the end,” said Perez, who will pursue a career as a fashion designer. “When I told my friends I worked for NASA they didn’t believe me at first. It’s so cool that I get to be a part of this and have this opportunity under my belt.”

Student interest in Cypress Ridge’s fashion design program has steadily increased as it enters its third year of working on HUNCH projects. According to Thomas, eight students enrolled in Fashion Design II in 2014-2015 and the number will jump to 27 in 2016-2017.

“It’s because of what they’re learning with NASA,” she said. “As Marcie has said, some people work at NASA 25 years and they touch paper and never touch anything that actually goes into space. What we’re making is actually going to be used by astronauts in the space station, and that’s pretty amazing. I can’t wait to see a picture of an astronaut getting into his sleeping bag and saying, ‘Thank you, Cy Ridge, this is really comfortable.’”

Visit the HUNCH website for more information at

Courtesy of the District