Alumni Outlook Magazine


STUDENTS HELP NASA

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Students in a UW-Stout spring art class had to learn to think outside the box even though they were working with cardboard.

As part of a special assignment with NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., the class was asked to generate ideas for the space agency’s Deep Space Habitat project.

Students were on teleconference calls with NASA while developing concepts and making cardboard mockups of independent living areas for astronauts, who would be on 60-day missions that go beyond low-Earth orbit. This work also could support future concepts for 500-day missions that include trips to Mars.

The project presented special design challenges. With zero gravity what happens to the water when you shower in space or brush your teeth? How do you eat? How do you exercise?

The students, led by industrial design instructor Jason Quick, also presented their ideas and models during the Senior Show in May sponsored by the School of Art and Design.

Along with zero gravity issues, the sophomore-level students in Quick’s class had to consider ergonomic issues and restricted living areas while working on their designs. The Deep Space Habitat module is patterned after living areas in the International Space Station.

“This is their first exposure to design research and product design,” Quick said. “Zero gravity has its own set of special restrictions and freedoms.”

The project was coordinated by Quick and through UW-Stout’s Discovery Center. Quick worked at the Marshall Space Flight Center for 2½ years as a human factors engineer. He helped design internal access areas for the maintenance crew of the Ares I rocket during NASA’s Constellation program.

“NASA is trying to inspire future engineers, but they’re also looking for ideas with fresh, young perspectives,” Quick said. “NASA made a point of saying to us that if you have unique ideas we haven’t thought of, your idea could fly in space. That’s pretty cool.”