The For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) Knob Noster High School Stealth Panther robotics team, sponsored by the Department of Defense (DoD) and located in Knob Noster, Missouri, recently designed, tested, and produced a 3D-printed prototype switch cover for a B-2 Stealth Bomber cockpit within 72 hours following an in-flight emergency in October 2018.
In late October 2018, a B-2 training mission was diverted a forced to land due to a set of switches that were inadvertently moved, causing the Airframe Mounted Accessory Drive (generator & hydraulics) to decouple from its associated engine inflight. While the pilots were prepared for these types of emergencies and landed safely, it was clear that the issue needed to be addressed quickly and definitively. Brig. Gen. John Nichols, commander of the 509th Bomb Wing at Whiteman Air Force Base, contacted the Stealth Panthers robotics team to help come up with a solution due to their astounding reputation within the FIRST Robotics program.
FIRST is a national nonprofit organization that operates after-school robotics programs for kindergarten through 12th grade students, both in the United States and internationally. The mission of FIRST is to inspire young people to be science and technology leaders by engaging them in exciting mentor-based programs that build science, engineering, and technology skills. FIRST strives to inspire innovation, foster well-rounded capacities, build self-confidence, communication, and leadership.
Founded in 2016, the Stealth Panthers earned national recognition for winning the Rookie All Star Award in year one of the FIRST program, and battling to the FIRST Robotics World Championship playoffs in year two. Because of the team’s top-tier performance, Brig. Gen. John Nichols believed the Stealth Panthers could apply their STEM skills to address a very technical, complex and real-world situation. During the 72 hours of design and production, the Stealth Panthers worked with Whiteman Air Force Base leadership, B-2 pilots, mechanical engineers, and their head coach Chris Adams (a retired Navy nuclear engineer) to develop a prototype solution switch cover.
The project required the Stealth Panthers to apply STEM critical thinking, production and manufacturing, testing, and quality assurance in a very short amount of time. In the end, the team were able to produce an operational solution for the Stealth Bomber, a $60 billion asset of the United States Air Force. They have printed over 30 switch covers, costing only $1.25 per unit, which are being used in all B-2 Bombers and training simulators.
In addition to sponsoring the Stealth Panthers FIRST robotics team, DoD STEM also supports Knob Noster High School’s participation in the National Math + Science Initiative’s (NMSI) College Readiness Program (CRP). NMSI’s CRP reaches inside high schools to increase the number of students taking and earning qualifying scores on AP math, science, and English exams. The program at Knob Noster is supported by the Military Child Pilot Program – a program that provides military-connected schools with greater STEM resources and networks to reach a younger military child population.
The DoD thanks and congratulates the Stealth Panthers for their innovative solution that supports the Nation’s military and wishes them continued success in their STEM studies!
Information in this post was excerpted from the Knob Noster Press Release located at: http://www.knobnoster.k12.mo.us/news/what_s_new/s_p_r_6424_soaring_to_new_heights