Central student reaches semis in national space design competition

Junior Gonzalez
York Dispatch

A Central York student who started a prosthetic club for children in need has reached the semifinals of a NASA design competition that might get his design permanently etched on the International Space Station.

Central York's e-NABLE club founder Patrick O'Neill, 16, is shown with the 3-D printed crescent wrench he designed for the "Two for the Crew" challenge, organized by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers Foundation and NASA, at Central York High School in Springettsbury Township, Friday, Feb. 9, 2018. O'Neill, one of 10 semifinalists, hopes to win the contest to secure a 3-D printer for the e-NABLE club to continue its work. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Out of hundreds of submissions, Patrick O’Neill, 16, is one of 10 students ages 13 to 19 from across the country who have reached the semifinals in the “Two for the Crew” challenge, a competition organized by Future Engineers, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers Foundation and NASA.

Students are challenged to design a multi-use tool that combines two instruments currently used by crews on the space station.

The winning design earns a lucky student a trip to Washington, D.C., for a VIP experience on space exploration, a 3-D printer for their school or library, and having their design printed in the ISS Advanced Manufacturing Facility.

'Exciting': Patrick’s design, the “Crescent Moon,” combines an adjustable crescent wrench with textured pliers, a design he said he came up with after researching the ISS toolbox.

“It’s definitely an honor being in this stage alone, but it's definitely exciting to move on to the (next) stage,” he said.

Patrick spent three months perfecting the design and estimated he created more than 15 versions of Crescent Moon with his 3-D printer at home before creating the final working version submitted to the judges.

He credited his teacher Dianna Guise with applying for the competition and his former drafting and CAD teacher Sean Blasetti with introducing him to the software used to design the tool.

Blasetti said while he currently doesn’t have Patrick in class, he sees him often since the Central York junior stops into his classroom during the “flex” study hall period to use the design software.

“Patrick has always been one — you can see it in his eyes — (who) gets it quickly,” Blasetti said. “He’s always setting his own goals, (and) I think he deserves to win.”

“Like all of our Future Engineers participants, Patrick's creativity and technical skills merged together beautifully to not just create a 3-D print but to innovate a new way that astronauts may manufacture and use future tools in space,” said Future Engineering CEO Deanne Bell in a statement.

“We admire his ingenuity and I wish Patrick and all of the semifinalists the best of luck in the next round.”

e-NABLE: During his freshman year of high school, Patrick was trying to get involved in a club at the behest of his mother, Nancy O'Neill, but couldn’t find any that interested him.

Ever since Patrick could pick up a toy, he’s gravitated toward objects that were connected, whether it was a Lego brick or a computer program where he could create something out of scratch, his mother said.

Ultimately, Patrick decided to create his own club, e-NABLE, to design and produce prosthetic hands for children around the world.

Central York's e-NABLE club members, from left, Adam Rilatt, 16, Mikella Wisler, 17, Renee Rambler, 17, Patrick O'Neill, 16, Rachel Rambler, 17, and Shannon Salandy, 17,  assemble prosthetic hands made with a 3-D printer at Central York High School in Springettsbury Township, Friday, Feb. 9, 2018. Dawn J. Sagert photo

The club has about 15 members and is aiming to produce 50 prosthetic hands this year, double the amount the club produced last year.

The group produces all of the prosthetic arms using Patrick’s personal 3-D printer, but he hopes to win the “Two for the Crew” competition to leave a 3-D printer at Central so the club can continue after he graduates.

While he hopes to go all the way, in some ways, Patrick already feels like he won.

“It’s great to see that when you work hard at something you get (recognized this way),” Patrick said.

“It’s an awesome feeling.”

What’s next: Patrick now moves to the next round, where four students in his age group will be the final four candidates for judges to consider.

The four finalists in each age group will be announced Feb. 19, followed by the announcement of the winners March 14.

Click here to view Patrick’s “Crescent Moon” design.