A Boise State University student team will travel to NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, June 1-4 to participate in a new microgravity program called Micro-g Neutral Buoyancy Experiment Design Teams (Micro-g NExT). Follow their adventure on their blog at https://boisestatemicrogravity2015.wordpress.com.
Boise State is one of only 18 universities from across the nation selected for the program. This project coincides with the celebration of the 50th anniversary of NASA extravehicular activities (EVAs).
Micro-g NExT challenges students to work in teams to design and build prototypes of tools to be used by astronauts during spacewalk training. The tools address authentic, current space exploration problems. Boise State’s team designed a tool to help astronauts collect rock samples on a future asteroid mission.
Titled “Zero Operable Interplanetary Delivery Based Ergonomics Grabber” (a clever nod to the Zoidberg character on “Futurama”), the tool is designed to collect uncontaminated sections of loosely adhered surface rocks, called float samples. The challenge was to design a way to mechanically obtain and secure a geology sample from an asteroid in microgravity.
“This program gives engineering students a unique opportunity to practice their profession on many levels. Not only do they design and fabricate a tool to be tested in a very demanding environment, they also have to provide exhaustive documentation and defend their design once we get on site,” said John Gardner, professor of mechanical engineering and team faculty advisor. “Over the past several weeks, I’ve witnessed a phenomenal evolution of these students. Now we get to go visit NASA, which is an icon of engineering and technology for all of us. It’s going to be a great experience.”
Teams will test their prototypes in the simulated microgravity environment of the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory located at Johnson Space Center — the same 6.2-million-gallon indoor pool used to train astronauts for spacewalking. Professional divers will test the tools and students will direct the divers from the Test Conductor Room of the NBL facility. Upon successful testing, these student-designed tools have the possibility of being used by astronauts for future training.
“This project is a great opportunity to experience NASA life,” said Camille Eddy, student team lead. “We will go behind the scenes and participate in testing, the same type of testing that NASA professionals do every day. It is an honor and a privilege to be traveling to the NBL to represent the Boise State MicroG-NExT team.”
Team members include (*traveling to Houston):
- Camille Eddy*, a mechanical engineering junior from Boise
- Colton Colbert*, a mechanical engineering senior from Boise
- Eli Andersen*, a geosciences senior from Murtaugh
- Jacob Davlin*, a mechanical engineering junior from Nampa
- John Cashin*, a materials science and engineering sophomore from Boise
- Scott Warren*, a mechanical engineering senior from Agoura Hills, California
- Christopher Ruby, an electrical engineering sophomore from Raleigh, North Carolina
- Marina Autina, a physics junior from Boise
- Zachary Chastaine, a physics junior from Meridian
Faculty advisors are John Gardner*, Lynn Catlin* and Gus Engstrom, in the Department of Mechanical and Biomedical Engineering, and Barbara Morgan*, distinguished educator in residence and former NASA astronaut.
Micro-g NExT is managed by the Office of Education at NASA’s Johnson Space Center. The program helps support the agency’s education policy of using NASA’s unique missions and programs to engage and encourage students to pursue science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers.
To learn more about Micro-g NExT, visit http://microgravityuniversity.jsc.nasa.gov, follow @NASAedu and #MicrogNExt, or visit http://www.nasa.gov/education. For more information about NASA EVAs, visit http://www.nasa.gov/suitup.