Piedmont residents working on NASA project
by Patrick McCreless
pmccreless@annistonstar.com
Mar 07, 2013 | 6542 views |  0 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Johnathan Williams, left, and Josh Gaddy work on a NASA project that will be tested in zero gravity next month if all goes as planned. (Anniston Star photo by Trent Penny)
Johnathan Williams, left, and Josh Gaddy work on a NASA project that will be tested in zero gravity next month if all goes as planned. (Anniston Star photo by Trent Penny)
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Outer space and stars fascinated Johnathan Williams as a child.

But astronomy and space travel were always just dreams the Piedmont resident had while growing up. Now, at age 27, as a student at Gadsden State Community College, Williams has joined a potential project for NASA.

They’re not just dreams anymore.

Williams is one of two Piedmont residents in a four-student team at Gadsden State working on a NASA project that will be tested in zero gravity in April. If all goes well, the project could end up on the International Space Station.

“It’s hard to believe really,” Williams said. “It’s kind of a dream come true.”

Josh Gaddy, 18, the other Piedmont resident involved in the project, said he also had a hard time accepting that he was working with NASA.

“I never thought when I got here at Gadsden State that I’d be working on this,” Gaddy said. “But there was no way I could turn the opportunity down.”

Both students are majoring in electronic engineering technology at the college, which has two campuses in Anniston. Williams decided to study at Gadsden State after he lost his job when the Garcy Corporation in Piedmont closed down last year. Gaddy is an early college enrollment student from Piedmont High School.

The students’ project is an experiment to study the behavior of organic solvents in water under zero gravity. The students have to build a clear box with syringes mounted inside to transfer and mix the chemicals. The finished project will eventually be set up electronically so it can be used on the space station. To test the experiment, the students will travel to the Johnson Space Flight Center in Houston, Texas, in April and ride on an airliner specifically designed for parabolic flight, creating the sensation of zero gravity.

“When we hit the zero gravity, we’ll shake the syringes and see what happens,” Williams said. “I’m excited about it.”

Tim Green, dean of technical programs at Gadsden State, said this was the first time the community college has been able to participate in a NASA project.

“It puts the college in the spotlight to compete with universities,” Green said. “It’s truly an opportunity I don’t think any community college student would dare pass up.”

After completion of the April flight, the student team will have the opportunity to intern in Pasadena, Calif., working in the Jet Propulsion Lab on robotics that will be used in future space exploration.

Gaddy said he hoped to get the internship and one day work for NASA.

“That would be excellent,” he said.

Staff writer Patrick McCreless: 256-235-3561. On Twitter @PMcCreless_Star.
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