Post by: Crystal Compton
Crystal Speaking at NASA in Florida
January 22, 2013 a new semester of school began just like it always does, time for more classes, homework, studying, working on a project with NASA, typical-everyday-school-kind-of-stuff.
My first studio class of spring semester began bright and early at 8:30 am on the St. Paul campus, my classmates and I sat patiently in the classroom. My professor rushed through the door and exclaimed that we were to work on a project with NASA and that we had a teleconference with them in 30 minutes. We certainly were not gradually eased into the semester, the teleconference consisted of our mentors from NASA they introduced the projects that each group would each be assigned to work on for the entirety of the semester. The project that I was assigned was the “Suit Clearance/Wearable Sensors” project.
The spacesuit that they were currently using that the crew members wear during their extravehicular activity (EVA) trainings produced harmful injuries to the body because of all the heavy equipment that the suit entailed. EVA is any activity performed by a pressure-suited crew member in unpressurized or space environments. The physical relationship between the EVA suit and the body needed to be better understood in order to appropriately design the next generation of spacesuits. One approach is to detect and measure the spatial relationship (clearance, pressure, and collisions) between the body and suit. And that’s just what we did.
Force Sensitive Resistor
On April 22, 2013 our entire class flew down to Houston, Texas to present our research and final designs to the NASA mentors at the Johnson Space Center. After our presentations we had booths set up with visuals and final designs for people to come by and ask questions. It was fascinating to see all the different projects other people and schools had been working on and what a variety of backgrounds were represented, such as mixing engineering with apparel design. Our mentors were beyond thrilled with our final results and even wanted to take us back to their lab that very day to test. Unfortunately due to time constraints we were unable to do so, but it was still so thrilling to see them so eager and astonished with what we’d come up with. Things that seem so simple and straight forward to us, such as zigzag stitching conductive threads onto knit fabrics to allow for further electronic connections in a garment, was intriguing to them, stitching and sewing machines aren’t really their forte.
Force sensitive resistor and placement of both sensors & conductive stitching
Being able to work with NASA was a beyond exciting, but being able to also develop and integrate technology with Apparel Design put the experience over the top. It was quite interesting to see how opening up to new resources and backgrounds lead to really astonishing outcomes. Sometimes what is typical or has always been used is not always the best solution. Mixing a wide variety of different backgrounds and brainstorming allows for a new perspective and approach on any given problem. One lasting impression from this project is to never limit yourself, the possibilities that may seem too absurd or non-related might be the most successful. When I applied to the University of Minnesota many, many moons ago to pursue a degree in Apparel Design, using engineering to work with NASA was the very last thing that I expected to be doing. The future holds endless potential, especially in this area of study, and folks, I couldn’t be happier to be a part of it.
Editor’s Note: Sol Inspirations works with the University of Minnesota to develop photovoltaic fashion clothes and accessories. Click here for more information.