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A group of students from UT and a trio of Knoxville high schools will get an out of this world opportunity Wednesday to chat with an astronaut on the International Space Station.

The results of the live discussion will be made available at a public event on Thursday, with recently named UT Space Institute Director Mark Whorton and Barbara Lewis, NASA Mission Control leader at Johnson Space Center, on hand to present research and answer questions.

That event will begin at 5 p.m. Thursday in room 300 of Dabney-Buehler Hall, 1406 Circle Drive.

Students from the Tickle College of Engineering, the Department of Physics and Astronomy and the Department of Geography submitted an entry to NASA’s contest “Amateur Radio on the International Space Station,” highlighting some of the space-related innovations occurring at UT.

NASA chose UT as its winner, which will give the UT Amateur Radio Club time for a one-on-one chat with space station Mission Commander Shane Kimbrough.

“We were obviously thrilled to find out that we had been selected,” said Grayson Hawkins, a senior majoring in mechanical engineering who is serving as chairperson for the event. “At the same time, we wanted it to be an educational opportunity as much as something that was just a neat event.”

Club members reached out to UT students, as well as students at L&N Stem Academy, South Doyle High School and Hardin Valley Academy, asking them to submit potential questions for the astronauts.

Some of those students will attend the live chat on Wednesday. Then, on Thursday, students and faculty from UT’s Tickle College of Engineering will demonstrate some space age technology and concepts for a larger group of students from UT and the participating schools.

“This great opportunity for us, not just for current students at UT but also for the high school students involved,” said Matthew Mench, head of the Department of Mechanical, Aerospace, and Biomedical Engineering at UT.



David Goddard (865-974-0683,