UW-Stout News Story

Space module mockups for NASA will be part of Senior Show

May 8, 2012

Students in a University of Wisconsin-Stout art class have had to learn to think outside the box — even though they have been working with cardboard — the past few weeks.

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

Students have been 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, a former Marshall Space Flight Center employee, will be presenting their ideas and models at 7 p.m. Friday in the Applied Arts Building during the Senior Show sponsored by the School of Art and Design.

The annual Senior Show will include work by hundreds of art students from the various Bachelor of Fine Arts concentrations, including interior design, graphic design, studio art and multimedia 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.”

Divided into teams, students researched and designed four astronaut activity areas: hygiene and waste; strength and exercise; multifunctional; and mobile maintenance. They dealt with such issues as going to the bathroom, how to handle medical emergencies and how to access and use tools.

The waste and hygiene module, for example, is about 6-feet-by-3-feet. That design was worked on by Ryan Enzler, of Rochester, Minn.; Kollin Konitzer, of Appleton; and Bryan Schwartz, of Andover, Minn.

“It’s been really exciting to get feedback from NASA,” Enzler said.

One feature of their design was an actual shower space, as opposed to the current space station method of bathing with moist towelettes. Their prototype uses warm water that flows through a coil to a spongelike end and then is suctioned away.

“Aesthetics are not that important but functionality is so important,” Konitzer said. “Our goal was comfort and routine to make it as close to normal as possible.”

The project has been 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 also is sponsoring a 2012-13 national student competition, Exploration Habitat (X-Hab) Academic Innovation Challenge. Students, including UW-Stout students who have worked on the current project, from around the country can submit designs. Winning concepts will be produced and used on a Deep Space Habitat concept demonstrator.

“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.”

Furlong art exhibit opens Friday

Also Friday, the School of Art and Design will hold an opening reception from 6-9 p.m. in Furlong Gallery for the annual Juried Student Art Exhibition.

The exhibit will be open through September.

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