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News Archive 2001 - 2010

Engineering Students Create Novel Solution for NASA Problem

April 30, 2004

A team of aerospace engineering students at The University of Texas at Arlington accepted a challenge from NASA and the Texas Space Grant Consortium. The challenge: discover a way to eliminate or reduce the risks associated with detecting both oxygen out-gassing and thermal shielding damage/defects on the exterior of manned spacecraft. The students’ solution: a free-flying robot capable of detecting, locating and analyzing possible hull damage and relaying the processed information back for action.

The students, all juniors, are participants in an aerospace engineering special topics class organized by Dr. Kamesh Subbarao. Extra course credit was given for participating in the project. The team consists of Hisashi Inoue (team leader), Kimiharu Onda, Shinya Sato, Nemu Shirota, Takahiro Sonoda and Michael Webb. David Cheuvront, an engineer at NASA’s Johnson Space Center (JSC) near Houston, is the team’s mentor.

This is the first time that a team from UTA has participated in the challenge, which strives to engage students in research, invention and design. This first effort was the design phase of their project; they are in the process of evaluating the effort to build a model of the free-flying robot next year. The team has worked on the project since January and presented their design along with 17 other university teams at a meeting in League City on April 19.

“This activity is an excellent way for the students to exercise their creative abilities, meet with their peers from other universities and develop contacts with NASA and aerospace industry engineers,” said Dr. Subbarao. “It’s also an opportunity for them to hone their presentation skills.” Teams in the competition can earn up to $1250 by meeting strict deadlines and creating a flawless presentation. A poor presentation or missed deadlines would result in fewer dollars awarded or even possible elimination from the design challenge. The UTA team used their funds to cover travel expenses to visit the JSC Advanced Robotics Center earlier this year and to the state meeting.

The Texas Space Grant Consortium is part of a national network of over 350 colleges and universities. The Texas Space Grant was formed in 1989 and is the largest among the 52 national consortia. Its membership currently includes 34 organizations, both academic and industry, that work together to develop a balanced program of higher education, research infrastructure and public service projects.