A group of Bradley University students is participating in a challenge that will assist NASA’s goal to put U.S. astronauts back on the moon within three years.
Bradley’s BUEARTH team has been chosen for the next phase of NASA’s “SUITS” challenge to design and develop interactive spacesuit interfaces that could be used on the Artemis mission.
“The general concept is that it’s trying to further the interface design for their spacesuits,” said Zach Bachmann, a senior computer science major who serves as manager and director for the 10-person inter-disciplinary undergraduate team. “Think of it as almost like how you envision Iron Man suits with all these projections that he can see while he’s in the suit.
“That is sort of the type of thing that they would like to do with their new space suits. So, what we’re doing is we’re helping basically ‘guinea-pig’ their design process.”
The Artemis mission’s plan is to have the first woman and next man walk on the moon by 2024; “SUITS” is an acronym for Spacesuit User Interface Technologies for Students. While Bradley’s team has participated in previous “SUITS” competitions, faculty advisor Heather Ford said this event is particularly challenging-- but also very rewarding.
“Each time students do this, some element of what they have created goes into the actual astronaut suit, which is pretty amazing,” said Ford, who noted the COVID-19 pandemic has changed how teams will participate.
“Typically, we have gone on-site to do this project in the past, and this is the first year that we'll be doing it all remotely. The students have done the testing with employees in the past in-person along with astronauts. Well, this year they're going to be doing that, but it's just going to be virtually over a Zoom call … which is a great experience for students, and I think many students are learning how to work remotely in the industry, which is fantastic as well.”
Other members of Bradley’s team are senior Matthew Kirchoff; juniors TJ Caron, Douglas Guzman, Abigail Irwin and Taylor Johnson; sophomores Brandon Adduci, Ben Bachmann and Joseph Manata; and freshman Sara Irwin. Irwin is the lead designer and Guzman is the lead programmer.
“Many of the other universities that are selected have their graduate students working on it. So that says a lot about Bradley students, that these are undergrad students who were able to get accepted into the challenge,” said Ford.
“It’s such a fun experience, and this isn't even something that students have to do in class. It’s just something that the students are so passionate about and interested in that we just do it outside of normal coursework, which again speaks to the caliber of the university students as well.”
Zach Bachmann first got involved with the team as a freshman and said he's always been interested in the future of technology.
“Space travel is obviously one of the biggest things, and to know that I'm a part of that is extremely significant,” he said. “To be able to say that I have touched something that is likely going to go into space, or I've been a part of the creative process of something that will be sent into space, is exhilarating.
“I know that everybody else on the team feels the exact same way. We’re all extremely passionate about it, and the fact that we’re part of the process is, again, super-exciting. It’s just really, really cool; it’s the ultimate bragging rights, you could say.”
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