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Napa Valley College Students Join Forces with NASA to Design Next Generation Spacesuits

Napa Valley College (NVC) has been selected to participate in the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Spacesuit User Interface Technologies for Students (SUITS) Artemis Student Challenge.

NASA SUITS challenges students to design and create spacesuit information displays within augmented reality (AR) environments to assist astronauts in conducting extravehicular activities (EVAs), also known as spacewalks, more effectively. As NASA pursues Artemis — landing American astronauts on the Moon by 2024 — the agency will accelerate investing in surface architecture and technology development. For exploration, it is essential that crewmembers on spacewalks are equipped with the appropriate human-autonomy enabling technologies necessary for the elevated demands of lunar surface exploration and extreme terrestrial access.

The Napa Valley College student team is one of 20 teams advancing to the next phase of the SUITS 2021 Challenge. Team Invictus, a group of 15 NVC engineering students, will spend the next several months coding their augmented reality-based prototypes and preparing to share their finished work with NASA personnel. In addition to implementing their designs, all teams are encouraged to publish their research and present their findings at technical and STEM conferences, as well as conduct virtual outreach events to share their experiences and knowledge from SUITS with their communities.

“Our objective in this competition is to develop an augmented reality system to assist astronauts in the upcoming 2024 Artemis mission,” said Everett Caldwell, Invictus team captain. “As engineers, we find it vital to our learning to challenge ourselves to develop and solve feasible solutions for real-world problems, instead of just theorizing. We are a diverse set of individuals with varying majors, including mechanical engineering, computer science, electrical engineering, environmental engineering and graphic design. Invictus is promoting diversity within the future engineering industry by encouraging our members who are of different genders and ethnicities.”

“This challenge tackles key aspects of NASA’s Artemis missions, and provides students the opportunity to work hands-on toward contributing real solutions for NASA,” said Dr. Joshua Hanson, NVC chemistry professor and Invictus advisor. “These students have been self-starters from the very beginning and they have done an exceptional job forming an inclusive environment where many students can contribute to this very innovative and ambitious project.” Upon successful testing, each of the proposed user interface displays will have the potential to help astronauts on lunar explorations for the Artemis program.

This challenge, sponsored by NASA’s Office of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Engagement (OSTEM) seeks to engage college-level students to pursue STEM careers. STEM is a curriculum based on the idea of educating students in four specific disciplines — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — in an interdisciplinary and applied approach.

“This challenge has provided our STEM students the opportunity to work in a team environment, building on the strengths and weaknesses of each member in the group,” said Luis Alcazar, NVC associate dean, MESA/STEM Program Services. “The team has implemented regimented schedules to meet deadlines and create structure, and the motivation to learn, design, engineer and create is an inspiration.”

The project officially launched in January and will continue through April 23, 2021. “The lessons and materials they acquire during this challenge will be shared at Napa Valley College for years to come,” added Alcazar.

In addition to Napa Valley College, the other institutions selected to participate in the 2021 NASA SUITS Challenge include Boise State University, Boise, Idaho; Bradley University, Peoria, Ill.; California State University – Northridge, Los Angeles, Calif.; Columbia University, New York, N.Y.; Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Daytona Beach, Fla.; Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Md.; North Carolina State University, Raleigh, N.C.; Northeastern University, Boston, Mass.; Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, Okla.; Rutgers University, Piscataway, N.J.; San Antonio College, San Antonio, Tex.; Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute, Albuquerque, N.M.; Texas A&M University – College Station, College Station, Tex.; University of Baltimore, Baltimore, Md.; University of Central Florida, Orlando, Fla.; University of Houston, Houston, Tex.; University of Maryland – College Park, College Park, Md.; University of Puerto Rico – Mayaguez, Mayaguez, P.R.; Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, Va.; Wichita State University, Wichita, Kansas.

To learn more about the NASA SUITS challenge, visit the Artemis Student Challenge website.

#NasaSuits #NasaCodes #NasaStem

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