Educator Marybeth Marsh and Her Students Design Products for NASA
For the last 16 years, Career and Technology Department Chair and Family and Consumer Science teacher Marybeth Marsh has made a difference in the lives of countless students at Cypress Woods High School (commonly known as Cy Woods) in Cypress, Texas. Prior to becoming an educator, Marsh earned a degree in Family and Consumer Services, specializing in Interior Design, and worked as a commercial and residential interior designer prior to teaching. As an instructor of Fashion Design I, Fashion Design II, Research in Fashion, and Interior Design, Marsh is giving her students a hands-on experience you could say is out of this world.
For more than 13 years, Marsh has served as a teacher for NASA HUNCH (High Schools United with NASA to Create Hardware). The HUNCH mission — founded in 2003 and now part of more than 200 schools across the U.S. — was designed to empower and inspire students through a project-based learning program that enables them to participate in the design and fabrication of real world products for NASA, working on projects such as wall coverings for astronaut crew quarters and designing quilted crew flight bags used to store and transport supplies and astronauts’ personal effects. Marsh’s Fashion II and Research in Fashion Design are the leaders in the NASA program, but she offers the opportunity to her Fashion I students as well.
“The NASA HUNCH experience for students is such a great opportunity,” she said. “The students feel very proud that they have created items that astronauts use during training or will go up in the Space Station! NASA HUNCH has written recommendation letters for college applications or career opportunities as well.” Currently, Marsh and her students are working on footpads worn by the astronauts in the International Space Station. “When there is no gravity, the astronauts must grip metal bars with their feet to get around or when they are stationary in the Space Station,” she said. “The tops of their feet get bruised and sore, so we have designed a footpad that cushions the top of their feet.”
During this most recent project, Marsh’s students made various prototypes for the astronauts to try, and they would send back information for alterations to accommodate them. Cy Woods’ Industrial Tech Department then replicates the students’ pattern in CAD and laser-cuts the materials for Marsh’s team to assemble. “Our administration is very supportive of the HUNCH program,” said Marsh. “I love to promote that Fashion Design is not just about clothing!” In 2022, Cy Woods will welcome its first FIDM Fashion Club and Marsh will serve as the club’s Advisor. “Students are excited about this,” she said.
As a complement to exciting classroom projects, Marsh has welcomed FIDM College Representative Cynthia Hougardy to visit her classroom. “She has shown the students all the possibilities and options toward a career in fashion — they also learn about careers they didn't think existed,” Marsh explained. “Every year there is something new I learn from Cynthia's presentations.” Whether teaching basic skills or working with NASA, Marsh has an undeniable passion for education. “I think it is important to teach the students skills they will use forever throughout their lives,” she said. “I have had students in college come back and tell me they were able to sew on a button or make pillows for their dorm — I love teaching!”